An Auckland pharmacist says she is working in fear and has opened up about getting verbally abused every day she works on the frontline in the battle against Covid-19.

"I have cried so many times ... the volume scripts is uncontrollable and we are drowning in work. The phone won't stop ringing and people abuse us on the daily," Esther Butt told the Herald.

"One lady who was getting medication for her husband yelled at me: 'I'm putting my life at risk coming here, hurry up' and that really hurt because my life's at risk every day and I am trying my best to help everybody."

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She wanted to share her story to remind people "to be kind to your local pharmacist as we want to help and are giving up a lot to be here".

It's been three days since the 39-year-old said goodbye to her three children who she won't see for at least four weeks while she and her staff put themselves at risk to help New Zealanders in desperate need of medication.

"To keep my children safe from Covid-19 I have sent them to my parents as the risk of exposure for me is very high.

"My mum came into the store on Tuesday to say goodbye and I couldn't hug her goodbye."

She said her partner had chosen to stay home to look after her.

"He's really scared for me. I am less worried about me getting the virus as I am healthy and feel like I would manage it ok but I fear for my family and the people around me that might get it if I do.

Auckland pharmacist Esther Butt says she's verbally abused daily working on the frontline of Covid-19. Photo / Supplied
Auckland pharmacist Esther Butt says she's verbally abused daily working on the frontline of Covid-19. Photo / Supplied

"I am really scared, it's been tough. Really tough," Butt said holding back tears.

She said she had been disappointed by the lack of support the pharmacy she managed had received from the Ministry of Health.


"We've had no clear guidance on how we are meant to operate so we have had to create our own rules."

The Unichem pharmacy, located in Orewa, was only allowing six patients into the pharmacy at a time and had set up chairs to separate areas inside.

As for protective gear, the pharmacy has had to purchase their own and has not had any communication from ministry as to whether any funded gear would be made available to them, Butt said. The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website

Yesterday, the director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield said all healthcare workers could be assured there was enough personal protective equipment (PPE) available and they were working hard to make sure all workers had access.

"We are now working to get PPE out to frontline workers who wouldn't normally need it for example, home support workers, pharmacies, aged residential care."

When asked by media why these frontline workers had not received PPE earlier, Bloomfield said: "It has been happening already but we want to make sure there is a clear national strategy so if a worker doesn't have enough and needs more, there's an easy way to get more."

Butt's concerns were not isolated. Another pharmacist contacted the Herald and said he was very worried for his family as he'd already had two close calls interacting with Covid-19 family members who had come into the pharmacy and staff had not been made aware.

"I have my parents living with us who are over 70 years of age as well."