Originally published in Retail Pharmacy
Graham Beissel says loyal community support has helped him overcome the challenges of operating a pharmacy in a remote Queensland town of just 300 people.
Name: proprietor Graham Beissel,
Wallumbilla Pharmacy, Queensland.
What motivates you as a pharmacist?
Being able to deal on a daily
basis with the health issues of
different people in the community. Community pharmacy is me.
How long have you been a
What is the size of the pharmacy and
how many staff do you employ?
We are about 150sqm and I’m
the only pharmacist. I’m alone
on Mondays, we are closed
Tuesdays and I have an assistant
on Wednesdays, Thursdays and
Fridays, as well as a schoolboy
assisting a few hours a day in the
How long have you owned or
operated your store?
We’ve been open for nearly a year.
Do you offer professional services?
We’re part of the National Diabetes
Services Scheme and I also do
MedsChecks, clinical interventions
and dose administration aids.
What kind of customers do
We attract locals from the town
and the surrounding properties.
What is the philosophy for your
I love what I do and I love working
with the community
Describe your day-to-day
challenges working in remote
Australia and how you overcome
We’re a remote pharmacy and
getting medicines can be a
challenge, but our wholesaler,
API, has never let us down.
What has been your most satisfying
moment in the pharmacy?
Opening my pharmacy here at
Wallumbilla and getting the huge
support from the local population
What is the most successful
OTC category in your
pharmacy and why?
Analgesics, cough and cold
medicines, anti-fungal medicines
and first-aid supplies – all of
which are essential in remote
stations and isolated towns.
Opening a new pharmacy
in a remote country town,
with a population base smaller
than any adviser would suggest
was viable for such a business, has
certainly presented its challenges
– and rewards – for Queensland
pharmacist Graham Beissel.
However, after one year in the
town of Wallumbilla, five hours
west of Brisbane, Mr Beissel’s
Wallumbilla Pharmacy hasn’t
looked back and he sees nothing
but positives ahead.
It is Mr Beissel’s positive approach
that drives the business.
“What motivates me as a
pharmacist is being able to deal on a
daily basis with the health issues of
different people in the community,” he said. “Community pharmacy is
me and I wake up every morning
happy to go to work in a job I
“I’ve been a pharmacist for 42
years and I was lucky to train in
Tasmania where there weren’t many
in the course and, by my final year,
there were only 10 of us.
“What this meant was that every
lecture was basically a tutorial,
because we could all interact with
one another and with the lecturer.
This gave me great experience and
I learnt a lot from the lecturers
that I’ve been able to utilise in my
pharmacy career ever since.”
After graduating at university in
Tasmania, Mr Beissel returned to
his home in Melbourne and from
there moved to Brisbane.
“I saw an ad for a job with AFS Pharmacies in Rockhampton and
decided to apply for it. I had $240
to my name and nothing else, so
when I got the job I ended up
spending $180 on an old, secondhand
Austin Cambridge and headed
up north with $60 left.
“The signs were good because, on
my first night in Rockhampton, I
met my future wife.”
So began two love affairs, one with
Queensland, where Mr Beissel has
owned and worked in a number of
pharmacies in both metropolitan
and rural areas.
“I always wanted to work for
myself, so, in 1980, I bought
a small pharmacy in the main
street of Rockhampton,” he said.
“This Row and Co pharmacy,
established in 1864, was the oldest
pharmacy still on its original site in
After stints owning two
pharmacies in Rockhampton, he
sold up all of his possessions and
in 2001 bought a cattle property
60km north of Blackall. There
Mr Beissel, his wife Bev and their
son Craig began their “fantastic
experience” with the bush.
However, primary producing,
wasn’t all “beer and skittles” he says,
and after two inches of rain in twoand-
a-half years, it became obvious
that living off the land could be a
very tough experience.
Mr Beissel found locum work at
Blackall, Barcaldine, Longreach and
Winton to help with the cashflow,
but in 2003 he returned to his first
love: pharmacy ownership. This
time, he settled on the Barcaldine
Pharmacy, which he owned and
operated until December 2007.
“Sometimes you just have to
sacrifice something in order to keep
going forward,” he said, adding that
family life and his partnership with
Bev were put on hold in order to
make a go of things. The Barcaldine
people supported Mr Beissel, who
found owning a small pharmacy in
a remote country town to be hugely
His wife Bev had her first brush
with breast cancer in 1999. After
chemotherapy and radiation
treatment, she was in remission
until 2006, when another lump
was found, requiring surgery. Mr
Beissel sold Barcaldine Pharmacy to
support his wife.
Bev’s condition was put on hold
after further radiation treatment
and the Beissels bought Taroom
Pharmacy in 2008 to continue to
embrace their love of the bush.
As Bev’s health continued to
deteriorate, Taroom was sold
and Mr Beissel started working
two days a week in pharmacies
in Roma, taking Bev every
Tuesday to Toowoomba for more
With things on a continual
downslide with Bev’s health, Mr
Beissel committed to being a
full-time carer, but he needed his “pharmacy fix”.
“We were living not far from
Wallumbilla and I decided that
the area needed a pharmacy,” he said. “The locals were having
to travel long distances to get
their scripts made up and I saw a
market for a pharmacy.”
With no pharmacies between
Roma to the west and Miles
to the east, Mr Beissel says he
believed the small town deserved a
better health service.
In going bush, he could not have
chosen a town more stereotypical
of the outback than Wallumbilla,
in the Maranoa region of
Queensland, about 40km east of
“I liked the idea of Wallumbilla
because there was no pharmacy
there and I’m one of these
pharmacists who likes to own
their own business,” he said.
“Owning the business creates the
bond with your patients that’s
important in pharmacy.
“Wallumbilla gave me an
opportunity to build a pharmacy
from the ground up.”
Hardly a bustling township,
Wallumbilla has a general store, a
pub, a stock and station agent, a
post office – and now a pharmacy.
Mr Beissel says the pharmacy
provided a service that meant
people didn’t have to travel
hundreds of kilometres to have
their scripts made up.
The acceptance of the locals has
been amazing, he says.
“You have to remember that
Wallumbilla has a population
of only 300 and the whole
catchment area for my pharmacy
is 1,250 people, which is way
below what is considered viable,” Mr Beissel said.
“What makes it work is that the
locals are so supportive of me and
the pharmacy. They’re so proud of
having their own pharmacy that
they go out of their way to use it
and to support me in what I’m
“For instance, they drop their
scripts on their way into Roma
to do their shopping, and pick up
the medicines on their way back.
“They could just as easily use a
pharmacy in Roma while they’re
there, but they’re very loyal and
committed to their own little
The pharmacy opened in
November 2015, since then Mr
Beissel says he has filled about
“It’s not a huge number, but then
again you have to remember we’re
not dealing with a huge number
of customers,” he said. “On a
busy day, I might have 40 to 45
customers and on a slow day 20 to
While Wallumbilla Pharmacy may
not cater for patient volumes that
metropolitan pharmacies would
consider the norm, Mr Beissel
has ensured it provides the best
standards and latest services.
“We provide a range of
professional services and, of course,
we’re part of the National Diabetes
Services Scheme,” he said. “I
also provide MedsChecks, dose
administration aids and I perform a
lot of clinical interventions for my
“When I remodelled the building,
I made sure we had a private
consultation room where I can
talk to patients and provide the
professional services they want.”
Wallumbilla has a nine-to-five
hospital run by a nurse with a
doctor from Roma visiting every
Wednesday to provide a clinic for
patients in the area.
“The hospital was under a lot
of pressure, so the pharmacy
opening has added a whole new
dimension of healthcare in the
town,” Mr Beissel said.
“I work very closely with the
nurse, who is the only healthcare
professional at the hospital
except on Wednesdays … We
have a very good relationship
with the doctors and nurses.
As we’re the only health
professionals available on most
days, we have to work closely
so that our patients get the best
service and treatment.”
The 150sqm pharmacy has a
full product range and a small
gift area that Mr Beissel says
he has introduced because the
town’s only other store, the
general store, mainly focuses on
consumer food and household
items, as well as fast food.
“It’s about providing what the
locals want,” he says. “If they
want a small gift for someone
then I can offer them that, rather
than them having to travel
another 40km or so.
“In the medicines area I find
that, with OTC products, the
biggest demand is for things
like analgesics, cough and cold
products, anti-fungal medicines
and first-aid items.
“There is also strong demand for
complementary medicines and the
vitamin range is an integral part of
our health service.”
Mr Beissel has also structured
the pharmacy so that it is open
only four days a week – Monday,
Wednesday, Thursday and
Friday. Initially this was so he
could take his wife for medical
treatment on Tuesdays.
Bev tragically lost her battle
with cancer on June 12 this year,
but the pharmacy has given Mr
Beissel the drive to face his life
without his “best mate”. He still
opens only on the four days each
week, saying the community is
satisfied with these trading hours.
“The opening days work well
for the locals and fit in with the
local hospital,” he said.
“On Mondays, I’m here by
myself, but on the other three
days I have an assistant. I also
employ a schoolboy as an
assistant after school a few days
“The two staff are locals and
I believe it’s very important to
give back to the community that
“The support I’ve been given –
and continue to get – from the
community here is remarkable.
This little pharmacy in this small
community only works because
of the attitude and commitment
of the community. It’s very
humbling to be involved in such
a unique health service.
“They’re just so proud that they
have their own pharmacy that
they’re determined to support it.”
One of the daily challenges the
pharmacy faces is maintaining
supply of medicines.
Mr Beissel says he deals with
API and, despite the logistical
challenges of getting medicines
out to his remote pharmacy, he
has never had a major problem.
“Going bush was the best thing
that my family and I could have
ever have done – it has been,
and still is, a most wonderful
experience,” he said,
describing himself as a “lucky
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