14/03/2019 - 15:14

Remote health fix key in Mann’s world

14/03/2019 - 15:14

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40under40: Building a pharmacy empire in the north of the state is simply a by-product of Hannah Mann’s determination to make a positive impact in remote health.

Remote health fix key in Mann’s world
TRAVEL: Hannah Mann says she initially viewed her Broome placement as a short-term trip. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

Hannah Mann had never experienced life in the remote north of Western Australia before her rotation as a student pharmacist in 2006.

But within two weeks of a placement in the Kimberley, the 2019 40under40 First Amongst Equals winner says she knew she’d found her new home.

“I came up to Broome as a student and within two weeks I quit my job in Perth,” Ms Mann told Business News.

“I went to two Aboriginal health services and I just did not want to go back to my private hospital job in Perth.

“I thought ‘that’s not where I want to be, this is where I feel like I can really make a difference’.”

Perth born and raised, Ms Mann had worked in hospitals throughout her university studies, pursuing her ambitions of becoming a clinical pharmacist based in the metropolitan area.

She said she initially viewed her Broome placement as a short-term trip, a chance to get out of Perth during the winter and enjoy some sunshine while gaining valuable experience on the way to earning her degree.

“I had no real concept of what I was going to see when I came to Broome at all,” Ms Mann said from Turkey Creek, on her 19th consecutive day on the road visiting remote Kimberley communities.

“I hadn’t really done a lot of research, I worked out on a map of Australia that Broome is kind of level with Port Douglas in Queensland, so in my mind I was imagining tropical rainforests.”

Unexpectedly, Ms Mann’s placement to Broome provided the impetus for her to uproot her comfortable city life and move to the country to establish Kimberley Pharmacy Services.

“I discovered I wanted to do things quite differently in remote health, and to look at the way medications are managed in rural and remote areas, particularly for Aboriginal people,” Ms Mann said.

“I believed that things could have been done much better than they were being done.

“Generally in rural areas pharmacies tend to try to be everything, and when you are dealing with remote health patients what I wanted to do was develop a model of pharmacy where we just did pharmacy really well.

“That’s why I took the opportunity to work in this space. We are really able to see changes happen within communities and with individual patients.

“We all want to close the gap, but it’s really nice to see changes happen in a patient’s health trajectory from something that can be quite small.”

Ms Mann said she secured several remote health contracts shortly after opening the Broome pharmacy, sending her to far-flung parts of the Kimberley and growing the operation outside of what could be considered a typical pharmacy business.

“The whole business revolves around managing medications for patients in remote areas,” Ms Mann told Business News.

“Sometimes it’s less of a pharmacy and more of a logistics company.

“We send medications to patients over an area twice the size of Victoria. Sometimes I forget how vast that is – it’s a pretty huge area that we organise patients’ medications for.”

Along with its central hub in Broome, KPS today comprises outlets in Derby and Fitzroy Crossing, while Ms Mann and her staff regularly visit 23 remote communities to provide medication education for patients and to support other health professionals.

Ms Mann’s business philosophy is simple – consult with the community and deliver what they really need.

That strategy has resulted in three very different pharmacies under the KPS banner, with the Derby store also becoming a general retailer and community hub, and the Fitzroy Crossing outlet a hospital pharmacy co-located within an Aboriginal primary healthcare service.

“There is so much pharmacists have to offer in a clinical space in primary healthcare in a community setting,” Ms Mann said.

“We can offer so much more to the community, such as counselling services, risk assessment, medication information, but it’s just about getting outside of the box of what a normal pharmacy looks like.”

She said the core function of all three pharmacies was to deliver a model focused on community engagement and provide services the people needed.

“If we can’t deliver what patients want and need for better health, then we might as well not be in business,” Ms Mann said.

KPS is also making a major positive impact outside of the Kimberley.

In 2015, the group was named the Pharmacy Guild of Australia’s Pharmacy of the Year, an accolade Ms Mann used to raise national awareness of the health issues faced by Aboriginal people.

Ms Mann is also a sessional lecturer on the subject of rural and remote pharmacy practice at Curtin University and the University of New England, NSW.

“Pharmacists are generally the most accessible health professional, but only if you live in a town and are not indigenous,” she said.

“If you live in a remote or very remote area then a pharmacist is definitely not the most accessible health professional because you have to walk into one of our shops to see one of us, which for some of these people is crazy.

“We have people who are really in need of education and management intervention for medication education and yet here we have got very limited ways these people can access these services.

“The visits side (of the business) is where I’m putting most of my time and energy, coming up with new and innovative ways we can increase our footprint and time that we spend in the country as pharmacists face to face.

“I really think that the key is the level of community engagement and having frank discussions around what the issues are and what are the barriers, what can we do to fix them and then coming up with solutions around that.”

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