Timaru pharmacy owner of 42 years retires on second attempt

Timaru pharmacy owner of 42 years retires on second attempt

Pharmacist Brent Roberts, 66, is retiring after running his Timaru business for 42 years.

MYTCHALL BRANSGROVE/STUFF

Pharmacist Brent Roberts, 66, is retiring after running his Timaru business for 42 years.

Brent Roberts’ mother told her son she would like him to choose pharmacy as a career before she died when he was 12-years old.

It was advice he is pleased he listened to – on Wednesday the owner of Timaru’s Roberts Pharmacy for the past 42 years, will retire.

“It was the right thing to do [becoming a pharmacist]. She knew me well. I’ve enjoyed it,” Roberts, 66, said.

Following his mother’s wishes, Roberts studied pharmacology at the then Central Institute of Technology in Upper Hutt, before returning to his hometown of Christchurch and completing the required practical hours for his qualification to be a pharmacist.

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The opportunity to purchase Murdoch’s Pharmacy in Timaru then arose in 1978, so at the age of 24 he bought it. Renaming the Hassall St premises, Roberts Pharmacy, he worked alongside, a technician and a retail assistant.

In 2017, the building needed earthquake strengthening and refurbishing so the business moved to new premises at the Timaru Medical Centre on Heaton St and now has 17 staff.

Work has been completed on the former building but it is sitting idle as Roberts continues to look for a tenant.

With the insecurity of Covid-19 delaying his original retirement date, of March 31, his last day is now Wednesday because it is half way through the financial year.

His business partner of the last decade Peter Burton will take over the business.

Looking back at the changes he has experienced, Roberts said labels on medicine used to be typed by a typewriter and it wasn’t until the 1980s he bought his first “large” computer at $30,000​.

The pharmacy now has a robot preparing unit doses into daily numbered packaging to prevent patients forgetting to take it.

“It’s a major advancement so patient compliance has improved. Previously it was in bottles.”

Roberts Pharmacy founder and pharmacist Brent Roberts will miss his colleagues in retirement including fellow pharmacist Zenith Jumalon, left, and pharmacy technician Sarah McKerchar.

MYTCHALL BRANSGROVE/STUFF

Roberts Pharmacy founder and pharmacist Brent Roberts will miss his colleagues in retirement including fellow pharmacist Zenith Jumalon, left, and pharmacy technician Sarah McKerchar.

Medicine has also improved over the years, with fewer side effects and it focused on more specific conditions, he said.

Also many items that used to be prescription-only are now sold over the counter such as emergency contraception, antibiotic eye-drops and treatment for urinary tract infections.

“It’s opened it up for people who may not have access to a doctor in the weekends.”

The most sought after medication was for pain, coughs and colds.

The demand for cough and cold medication had slumped since Covid as people adopted stricter hygiene methods, he said.

The rarest question he had had was whether or not the pharmacy sold Christmas trees – they did not.

Over the years Roberts has seen an increase in obesity and diabetes. To improve the rates he would like to see the Government make milk cheaper than soft drinks.

South Canterbury also had high rates of asthma due to its climate, he said

“I’ll miss the customers and the staff. I’ve made some good friendships. It’s been a great journey.”

Fellow pharmacist Victoria Abbott said Roberts was a hard worker doing the same work as three people.

She said he will be missed for his loyalty to staff and customers and for his “elephant-like” memory for names.

Staff won’t miss helping him look for his glasses which Abbott said he regularly mislaid.

Roberts wants to enjoy his retirement improving his golf from a handicap in the 30s to a ‘’more acceptable 17 or 18’’, and spending time with his five grandchildren.

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