Trading Stories: The growing demand for quality pharmacy services 

He tells us how local staff can make a real difference when it comes to supporting customers through their medication needs.
Trading Stories: The growing demand for quality pharmacy services 
Irwin's Pharmacy, Mayfield Shopping Centre, Silversprings Road, Cork, from left Eddie Irwin, Joe Healy, Emma Gaffney, Gwen Bishop, Helina Buckley, Fiona Dillon and Seamus Collins, Manager. Picture Dan Linehan

Tell us the history of the business.

The business started in 1997 when I bought an existing pharmacy on Blarney Street. In 2001, I relocated it to 77 Shandon Street.

The Mayfield shop opened in 2000, and the shop in Togher opened in 2005. We had a flurry of activity in the first few years. We were very busy.

How did you choose your locations?

I would have worked in these areas so I had have had experience in them. We also wanted to get a spread of shops around the city.

Irwin's Pharmacy, Mayfield Shopping Centre, Silversprings Road, Cork, from left Gwen Bishop and Emma Gaffney. Picture Dan Linehan
Irwin's Pharmacy, Mayfield Shopping Centre, Silversprings Road, Cork, from left Gwen Bishop and Emma Gaffney. Picture Dan Linehan

Has much changed since you opened?

Regulatory demands are much greater and because of that, there is a need for more pharmacists to deal with more paperwork. So, as a consequence of that, time that could be spent dealing with patients is spent on paperwork.

How did you get into this industry?

I had been most interested in science subjects in school, but I also wanted to do something that would allow me to be self-employed. I grew up with my parents running a bar and restaurant, and I enjoyed the service industry and the challenge of being self-employed, so pharmacy made sense.

What services do your pharmacies offer?

We offer home delivery, flu vaccinations, blood pressure monitoring, and we are open until midnight on Shandon Street. The most important thing we offer is access to a qualified member of staff at all times.

With so many chains, big and small, is it a tough market to compete in?

Yes, it has become tougher in recent years, but we have built up a loyal customer base.

What sets yours apart from others?

What differentiates us is our staff. Most of our staff have been with us for a very long time. They provide a trusted and recognisable face that is helpful for patients, particularly when dealing with medication.

For example, in Shandon Street, Marguerite and Donal have been there for almost 18 years. In Mayfield, Seamus has been there for 16 years, and, in Togher, Carmel has been there since it opened in 2005. Most importantly, our pharmacists mostly live and work in the communities around the shops. There is a presence in the community, not just the shop.

Irwin's Pharmacy, Mayfield Shopping Centre, Silversprings Road, Cork, from left Eddie Irwin, Picture Dan Linehan
Irwin's Pharmacy, Mayfield Shopping Centre, Silversprings Road, Cork, from left Eddie Irwin, Picture Dan Linehan

Tell us about your staff.

The staff are friendly, courteous, but, above all, caring. As most of our staff have been with us for many years, we endeavour to provide a friendly and professional working environment for them. I get the best satisfaction from hearing compliments about our staff and I believe they are always willing to go the extra mile for our customers.

Tell us about your customers.

The customers are mostly local to the three shops. We have a good customer base, ranging from people on long-term medications to casual, walk-in trade. Customers have been loyal to us over the years. We have always relied on recommendations from other satisfied customers.

What challenges does the industry face?

The increased cost of new medication means that the HSE has had to make difficult decisions as to what products they will pay for. Some patients bear the brunt of these decisions to restrict supplies of certain drugs, like the Versatis patches recently.

What are the advantages of having a late night pharmacy, like on Shandon Street?

There is increased availability to an expert in medicine, especially as people tend to work less traditional hours than nine to five. Also, with the increased pressure on GPs and emergency departments, pharmacies have become the first port of call for many people.

What's in the future for your business?

With an ageing population and a health service under strain, the number of services available directly from pharmacies is likely to increase in the coming years.

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