Obscene pick-ups, telephone terror, stalking – abusive men become a threat to the pharmacists’ night shift. Now they want to fight back. But that can take time.

“There’s nothing we haven’t heard on the phone at night and in the emergency service,” says Anita M. (46), a pharmacist in the Düsseldorf pharmacy. However, this is not urgent medical advice. In fact, men without shame or pain limits ring the pharmacists and especially women pharmacists at night and block the telephone line.

“Guys masturbate on the phone, shower us with obscene calls or want to know where to measure a fever,” reports the pharmacist. A colleague of hers had to pick up the phone again and again at night between two and four o’clock. A disturbed person – using the number suppression – repeatedly played the penetrating screams of a woman on the phone. He threatened: “Listen carefully!”

All of this doesn’t just happen in Düsseldorf. “We pharmacists exchange information on this in a Facebook group. The problem exists throughout Germany,” reports Anita M. Three quarters of the approximately 50,000 licensed pharmacists are women. The chance for perpetrators to be able to harass a woman with a random call is therefore optimal.

One of them, a woman from Duisburg, happened what all women dread. A phone caller turned into a stalker. It wasn’t difficult for him, since he knew exactly where and how long the woman worked. The man pursued her so persistently into her private life that she quit her job and left town.

Throughout Germany, every citizen must be able to reach a pharmacy 365 days a year and also at night. Paragraph 1 of the Pharmacy Act calls for these night and emergency services. This is a blessing for the sick, but a challenge for the state chambers of pharmacists. You are responsible for a fair regional and temporal distribution of these services to all pharmacies in the country.

In metropolitan areas like Munich, a pharmacy has an average of 14 services per year, but in a rural region more than 70 services. Every night around 1,300 of the almost 19,000 pharmacies in Germany are available for sick people seeking advice. That’s an average of 20,000 people per night. Obscene callers are not only a danger for the pharmacists, but also for the general public: They block the lines for more important calls and scare the pharmacists out of their sleep at night for nothing.

Hubertus Minuth, Anita M.’s employer and owner of three other pharmacies in Düsseldorf, has long since lost patience. “Our employees need better protection from perverse harassers. These men take advantage of the anonymity and number blocking on the phone,” says the pharmacist. he acted. Contacted the branch association ABDA and pharmacist chambers.

“These were more than sobering experiences,” he describes their reaction. So far, none of his more than 30 employees have resigned because of the terror. “But I certainly don’t want to wait that long.” After all, employers also have a duty of care towards their employees.

Our editorial team confronted the pharmacists’ association ABDA with the delicate situation of pharmacists. Only after lengthy inquiries did the association reply that the application number 2.13 had been approved at the general meeting of the German Pharmacist Association in September 2022. The content: The terror calls are to be prosecuted.

The association will “now process, implement and follow up on this decision with all its might,” it said. The increase in these calls reflects a general brutalization of morals and interpersonal respect, which also affects paramedics and doctors, according to the Apothekertag.

Pharmacist Minuth doesn’t want to wait that long. “The chambers should finally publish nationwide guidelines and safety instructions on their websites,” he says angrily. A local, central telephone answering service, mainly staffed by men, could be a solution that only forwards relevant inquiries to the emergency pharmacies. The police could also be helpful. But so far nothing has happened.

The emergency services of veterinarians and veterinary clinics are also familiar with massive harassment at night. Unlike pharmacists, however, they have less strict legal requirements for nighttime availability. The result: owners of sick animals are increasingly unable to find help at night – the veterinarians simply no longer work night shifts.

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The article “For emergency pharmacists, the night becomes a horror trip” comes from WirtschaftsKurier.