A Day in the Life: Joanne Hynes


POSITIVE INTERACTIONS Joanne Hynes has been front and centre of the Ballinrobe business community during the Covid-19 pandemic.


Name: Joanne Hynes
From: Ballinrobe
Age: 54
Occupation: Pharmacist

I tend to be a fairly early riser so I’m up early and because the children aren’t at school now, I use the time in the morning to do the paperwork. I find when I’m at work I can’t really be taking time off to be doing paperwork. At this point in the coronavirus situation, work takes a bit more attention because we’re very aware of getting social distancing correct and cleaning the place as often as it needs to be.
Often before work, I’ll be talking to Martina Jennings of the Mayo Roscommon Hospice. I’ve just stepped down as chairperson and we’d often have a conversation most mornings about how things are going. Fundraising has been very badly affected by the virus so we’re trying to come up with strategies to try and raise money.
Within our shop, we have a staff of about ten. We had a lot of changes to put in when the coronavirus came first. It obviously brought a lot of fear, not only for the customers but also for my staff. I thought my staff were amazing. I could feel that they were absolutely petrified but there was a real sense of us coming together to support each other and our customers. It was really busy then, but now it’s settled down a bit.
We split our staff into two teams, so if one team got sick the other could pick up the slack. People’s medication is on our computers, so if the whole shop shut down it would have been a huge stress to make sure those people got their medication. We put in a lot of barriers to make staff feel more comfortable and make sure customers didn’t feel exposed. We also did a lot of deliveries every single evening. I learned roads in the area I’d never seen before!
My husband has been working from home the whole time since lockdown and he’d say to me ‘Any deliveries this evening?’ and then he’d come with me just to get out of the house. Sometimes it would take an hour to do the deliveries. It was nice in some ways.
We’d wear a lot of masks to make sure that we’re all protected. It’s not just about protecting the staff; it’s also about protecting the medicine supply to people. Initially, the medicine supply was a big issue. People started panic-buying for the first four weeks, but that all settled down.
At the moment in work, we find that some people have just come out of their homes, and you can feel that they’re nervous and that they’re aware of everybody. When they come in you have to make them feel comfortable and serve them as quickly as possible.

Working online
A lot of our work has gone online because doctors are sending us emails instead of seeing patients in-person. We don’t have our consultation room at work at the moment because it’s too small for social distancing. Sometimes we have a consultation in someone’s car; sometimes we’ll take their blood pressure away from other people.
We’ve had a lot of really positive interactions with people. That’s one of the bonuses of the job. One gentleman used to bring us flowers every week. Right throughout the pandemic we were able to look somebody in the eye and have a conversation with them, even though it was through a perspex screen. We weren’t working in the hospital ICU or A&E but the staff all really felt a part of the frontline.
We’re a real part of the community. I know from talking to Rob Murphy next door in Centra that while you’re a business, you’re really taking responsibility for your place in the community and making sure you’re doing your part.
There was a lot of fear out there, and there is still a lot of fear out there. Trying to get messages across about masks, hand-washing and sifting through the information people are getting to make it understandable is also an important part of the job.
I’m absolutely totally obsessed with the coronavirus. Some people get into Harry and Megan, but I’m into coronavirus. I believe we will have the coronavirus for a minimum of 12 months, even if there’s a vaccine found before the end of the year.
I believe tonnes of us are susceptible to it. I believe we’re going to have to get used to wearing masks. It’s not that they’re amazingly effective, but it’s a reminder to the person you’re talking to that we are in the middle of a pandemic. This hasn’t gone away and it’s absolutely not going away for a long time.
I have missed meeting up with my family and friends, just that human interaction. I had a fantastic holiday booked with my two daughters to go to a family wedding in Australia and that got cancelled. We missed the people coming into the shop on a Friday who’d come in as part of their routine. You do feel a part of their life. I do see the community pharmacy as being part of the community.

Community spirit
I feel Ballinrobe and Ireland have done amazing. The way the whole community took the message on board and got behind and did the right thing. We often give off about things but the message was really simple, people took it on board and said ‘this is what we have to do, and we’re going to do it’. I thought that ‘Believe in Ballinrobe’ were great, they got involved very early.
I’m on the board of the Mayo Roscommon Hospice and have just stepped down from the chair. The chair is a huge commitment, but you get back in spades what you put in. You meet these wonderful volunteers at fundraisers. I meet Martina Jennings all the time who works really hard. It’s a fantastic organisation. I see it on both sides. As a pharmacist, we meet families who’ve had interactions with the palliative care service.
My main leisure activity is walking and golf. I absolutely love golf. We’ve one of the most fantastic golf courses in the world here in Ballinrobe. In the middle of the lockdown, I did jigsaws, no baking for me!

In conversation with Oisin McGovern

Quickfire questions

If money was no object, what would you do all day?
I would work on my golf handicap while traveling the world

Tell us something about yourself we don’t know?
I am like Cinderella, if it’s after 12 I have to be in bed ( my family do know this!)

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve eaten?
Kangaroo steak, didn’t like it

Where’s your favourite place in the world?
My bed
What makes you angry?

Your first hero?
My Dad, he was really kind, and principled, alway tried to do the right thing

Name three things that are always in your fridge?
Milk, marmalade, mayonnaise
What makes you nervous?
Public speaking, I have done lots as Hospice chairperson, but I still get nervous

Favourite TV show
Just started watching Derry Girls, very funny, brings me right back to my all girl’s convent school in the 80s

Most famous person you’ve met?
Vice president Joe Biden when he turned the sod on the Mayo Hospice. Hope he’ll be elected President Biden in a few months

What do you miss most about being a kid?

The way the summer days seemed to last forever … now the months seem to fly by

What’s your most prized possession?
Don’t really get attached to things, I value great memories

Best advice you ever got?
‘Sleep on it, things often look different in the morning’
Describe yourself in three words?
Positive, compassionate, forgetful
How do you unwind?
I love jigsaws and puzzles, they help me switch off