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I lost a good friend who was just 44 years old a few weeks back. Not mislaid him of course, that would be just careless; rather, he was on the phone to someone, they heard gurgling, and his body was found the following day in a car park up the country. He just looked like he was asleep, apparently. There you go. Or rather, there he went. RIP Mer. He had three Ironman triathlons under his belt, two more than me, and I was always the one who was trying to keep up with him when we used to train together. It still doesn’t seem fair or right, but that’s life apparently, and death in this case. He’s at peace, and his wife and three kids have to just get on with things as best they can now in his absence. 

… He was on the phone to someone, they heard gurgling, and his body was found the following day in a car park up the country. He just looked like he was asleep, apparently 

We all have different roles, along with our role as a pharmacist, and keeping everything in balance, and managing one’s priorities is an ongoing juggling act. It is in my case, anyway. I know what the order of my priorities are, and yet I find myself working much more than I would like to be. I think my wife and kids would like me around more too. Well, my kids anyway! 

I’m sure the shortage of available pharmacists to work in community will rectify itself in the near future, and there’ll be more opportunity to rebalance on that front. The cost of some cover presently, when available, albeit necessary for one’s personal needs, could render some businesses unviable. 

“We’ll run out of time before we’ll run out of money,” Seamus, a family friend of my parents, used to regularly say. He ran out of time thanks to lung cancer relatively young. Being a heavy smoker, he perhaps unwittingly supported the surety of his hypothesis. Present fuel and energy costs, however, may well challenge this, depending on how things play out over the coming months and years. I felt like we were bleeding money before the recent fuel hikes, and now apathy has set in to a large degree when it comes to trying to manage our outgoings. That idea of focusing on what is in my control, and what is not, comes to mind. 

On the pharmacy front, we’re as busy as ever, thankfully. Having started these articles with a business focus over three years ago, they have evolved into something very different. Our work has evolved over that time also and the vaccination programme involvements, along with challenging GP availability, has brought our community role to the fore. We do not, however, have a situation where constituents are knocking on their local TD’s door complaining that they can’t get a pharmacy, unlike in the case of GPs. So our daily staffing, financial and other pressures may garner little sympathy and government energy in such an environment. Stephen Donnelly’s responses to questions on increasing pharmacy school places to address community workforce pressures offered little insight and depth of thinking, or an appetite for proactive engagement around our issue. I think I am optimistic, however, that we are at a turning point, where our challenges are being recognised by many pharmacy stakeholders, and many want to address issues that will ultimately benefit patients and our communities. 

I attended another funeral last week. A customer in Ballindine whom I’ve known since I opened there in 2007. She was a lovely lady. So gentle, kind, unassuming and quiet-spoken. Nothing was ever a problem. We had spoken about her cancer some time back, and she was very matter-of-fact about it. “Sure, what can I do, only get on with it.” We’ve lost so many gems over the years, many of whom I think of from time-to-time. We did a really good job of looking after them as their pharmacy of choice, and I’m immensely proud of that, and our team. They cared, and continued to care, and understand that we are not merely a conduit for the delivery of medicines. Less pharmacists means less time at the counter, means less time for those people and those relationships. Not too easy to put a ‘value’ on those relationships, is it? 

I wrote a poem when Mer passed in an attempt to gather together and reflect on both what he was and what he meant. As someone who lets my job define ‘who I am’ much of the time, I’ll finish now, and leave us to reflect on what’s important during the month ahead. 


A swimmer who loved the cold water, 

A runner, not much of a walker, 

A biker too strong to keep up with, 

A rower, mountaineer and Ironman. 

Fiercely competitive and able for anything, 

A friend, and much more than a friend, 

A confidante, mentor and coach, 

Full of belief, wisdom and caring. 

A big-hearted, kind and gentle man, 

An astounding intellect, 

A businessman, doctor and leader, 

A rock, a constant, always there. 

An early riser with a smile as long as the day, 

A belly laugh so easy and often, 

A listener more than a talker, 

A thinker, not much of a drinker, 

Though he did like a nice red and fine whiskey, 

Not a man for the pub, 

He’d rather be at home instead, 

Where his priorities lay, a family man. 

Husband to Trish, the love of his life, 

Father to Alannah, Micheál and Nicholas, 

You are his why, his everything. 

Your love and fun kept him happy and strong. 

At 44 this magnificent man gone far too young, 

We all thought he had another 60 in him. 

A brother, grandson, son-in-law, and a son, 

Hopefully he is someplace peaceful now, 

Catching up over fresh coffee with his dad. 

While we had you Mer, it was “mighty altogether”, 

“The finest”.


Ultan Molloy is a business and professional performance coach, pharmacist, facilitator and development specialist. He works with other pharmacists, business owners and third parties to develop business strategies. Ultan can be contacted on 086 1693343.