Pharmacist robbed at gunpoint wants to start support group for his peers
Raising awareness and taking preventive measures can reduce risk, pharmacists’ association says
Two masked men walked into Valaykumar Rajgor's pharmacy minutes before closing time, and at gunpoint demanded cash and drugs.
The thieves left The Medicine Shoppe with about $350 in cash and $15,000 worth of opioids.
The robbery was traumatic, said Rajgor, who used to enjoy going to work.
"As soon as it turns dark, I always think, 'Please, God, make sure nothing happens today,'" he said. "I must admit that I'm a little shaky."
Pharmacy robberies aren't a new problem in Edmonton, police say. Three were robbed in the first month of 2020, compared to four in all of 2019. There were 14 pharmacy robberies in 2018.
Rajgor wants to start a support group for other Alberta pharmacists who may go through similar experiences.
"I do feel that we need to have a volunteer group, because then my fellow pharmacist is giving me emotional support," he said. "It makes me strong."
Focus on prevention
The Alberta Pharmacists' Association supports Rajgor's efforts, said president Darren Erickson.
"Many of the victims are terrified to go back to work, or feel guilty that they have put themselves or employees or their stores at risk," Erickson said.
"Communication with other pharmacists and victims is very beneficial."
Erickson hopes more awareness of the issue will motivate pharmacists to take measures that reduce their risk of being victimized.
Those measures include installing security cameras, keeping doors and windows clear of signs and posters, and keeping a minimum amount of cash on hand.
Pharmacists should also keep their opioid inventory to a minimum, said Erickson.
"The reason for that is, if there's a robbery he's going to leave with a little tiny box of stuff. He's not likely to return."
Impact on personal life
The robbery was stressful for his family as well, Rajgor told CBC in a recent interview.
On Jan. 14, the night of the crime, his wife was helping him in the pharmacy near 66th Street and 132nd Avenue.
"It affected her, too," he said. "She couldn't sleep for at least two or three nights."
The couple's four-year-old son overhead a conversation about the robbery, Rajgor said, and has been worried ever since.
The next morning, I was leaving for the pharmacy and my four-and-a-half-year-old asks me, 'Dad, are you going to come back today? Are you sure nothing is going to happen to you?' And I got tears in my eyes."
The robbery led to a mountain of paperwork, Rajgor said, because the stolen drugs must be reported to various agencies, including Health Canada.
"We have to send those reports, deal with insurance agencies," he said. "It's a nightmare."
Rajgor wants to create a network of volunteer pharmacists who can provide emotional and logistical support to robbery victims.
"What to do after a robbery is a big question mark," he said. "Especially what to do after a robbery when you are self-employed."
He shared the idea with his peers on social media and received a positive response, Rajgor said.
"People were very helpful and supported me through my tough time."
Pharmacists who have been robbed can also access counselling services through the association, said Erickson.
"It's going to be tough going back into the store for your first day because you're a bit jumpy," he said. "We would encourage anyone with this burden to make use of this help."