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Spring Ridge farmer finds love with pharmacist and his hometown finds boost in medical services

Spring Ridge Pharmacy

Key Points

  • Chloe Kay opened a pharmacy in Spring Ridge earlier this year, a first in the town’s lifetime
  • Dr Owen Boyd is the first GP to visit the farming community in 30 years
  • They hope what they’re doing can be a pilot for other small towns to follow

When a farmer from a small rural town in northern New South Wales fell in love with a pharmacist, he never expected it would have such a big impact on his small community.

For 30 years, Spring Ridge has been without a doctor, leaving those unwell in its population of 400 to face long drives to access health care.

Now, that has all changed thanks to the love story of Andrew Mills and pharmacist Chloe Kay.

“There has never ever been a pharmacy in Spring Ridge in its life history, so for one to pop up, it’s a lot for people to take in,” Mr Mills said.

The couple met in 2020 at a pharmacy in Coonabarabran.

They both say things moved fast, with Chloe moving to Andrew’s family property and then welcoming a baby boy.

In between running the pharmacy Chloe is busy being a mum to Billy and helping Andrew on the farm. (ABC New England: Max Tillman)

If life isn’t busy enough, this year, Ms Kay decided to buy the general store and add a pharmacy to it. 

That was only a few months ago, but the little shop has made a big difference.

The establishment of the pharmacy has now led to a doctor working part-time out of a room beside the shopfront.

“Everyone is very excited. It’s something that is groundbreaking,” Mr Mills said.

“People don’t have to travel hundreds of kilometres to see a GP and have to wait potentially weeks to get an appointment.

“Then to go to the pharmacist and get what they need next door will be incredible.’

From coast to country

In just the last few days, Spring Ridge has welcomed Newcastle’s Dr Owen Boyd for his first appointments. 

He provides face-to-face consultations two days per month, with telehealth appointments to cover the days he isn’t there.

Dr Boyd has arrived in town as part of a pilot program jointly run with the Primary Health Network. 

Dr Boyd is hopeful the 12-month pilot will be adopted in other rural communities struggling to access health care. 

“This is an opportunity on our doorstep that hasn’t been met for various reasons, and I’m looking forward to being a small part in meeting that need,” he said.

“We may well establish some other practice locations in other areas of need, but the opportunity here was great because Chloe is essentially an entrepreneur. She makes things happen.”

Dr Boyd said there was a sense of relief from those he had met that there was a GP in town.

“I was speaking with someone, and they said their husband was on the farm. He travels to Tamworth for a couple of hours, sits in a waiting room for a couple of hours and drives back a couple of hours,” he said.

“Now there’s the opportunity for farmers and agricultural workers to stay local and connect in with me in a timely manner for accessible care.”

Sometimes that timeliness even means delivering scripts to the pub just a few steps away.

“I actually recruited a patient from there this morning when I went down for a glass of water. It’s a great community.”

A need for medicine

Ms Kay has worked in many pharmacies, travelling from Darwin to Central Queensland and the Sunshine Coast. 

Six months after becoming a mum to now two-year-old Billy and ready to return to work, she realised Spring Ridge desperately needed a pharmacy and health care.

After renovating the general store and getting the right approvals, Ms Kay was able to bring medicine to her new town.

“A lot of people were sceptical whether it would work and whether it would be sustainable but everyone has started supporting it and realised how convenient it is,” Ms Kay said.

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