Pharmacist rewarded after hellish year

19:57, Jun 11 2012
Warwick Kerr
NO TIME TO GRIEVE: Warwick Kerr had to cope with the death of a son, the destruction of one pharmacy and the revival of another.

A Christchurch pharmacy owner had to put aside his grief for his dead son to avoid bankruptcy.

Warwick Kerr owns pharmacies in Waltham and St Martins, and four days before he was to take over the Parklands Unichem Pharmacy, his 13-year-old son, Joel, died in a swimming pool accident.

Three weeks later, the February 2011 earthquake hit, and the family's main source of income, the St Martins Pharmacy, was destroyed.

This week, Kerr won best community pharmacy in the national pharmacy awards for his Parklands business.

"It's a great privilege, but when you lose a child, nothing really matters any more," he said.

Kerr, wife Sarah and his four other children had lived "through hell" in the past 18 months.


On January 27 last year, Kerr found Joel unconscious in the family's pool and his other children "watched as I tried to make him keep living".

Kerr said that after a "hard struggle" his son died, but the family were unable to get out of their sale contract for the Parklands pharmacy in Queenspark Dr.

"The old owner gave us a week and in that time we had a funeral for our son," he said.

"All I wanted to do was crawl into a hole and grieve, but we had a new business that wasn't making a lot of money and the pharmacy in St Martins was gone.

"Instead of being able to grieve together, we were shovelling liquefaction and salvaging what we could from St Martins."

Kerr said the only way his family would make it through and avoid bankruptcy was if he poured 100 per cent of his energy into the new business.

"I started doing a refit of the shop before any earthquake land decisions had been made," he said.

"We had to make staff changes and there were always tough decisions.

"At one point I thought Parklands was going to be red-zoned and I would have done all of it for nothing.

"Every time there was a big aftershock we had liquefaction and we had to clean up stock."

Kerr said retail sales had increased by 50 per cent since he took over and he wanted to acknowledge "his amazing, dedicated staff".

"When I was entering the awards there was a section where you had to write about your challenges and I remember thinking to myself, 'How many words am I allowed?"'

Kerr plans to rebuild the St Martins pharmacy so it is "better than ever".

Pharmacy Today editor Jodi Yeats said Kerr and his team had achieved "incredible results".

Joanna Batcup, of Christchurch Hospital, won technician of the year at the awards for her method of recording and dispensing clinical trial prescriptions.

The Press