A DEDICATED shopping hour for the elderly and those with a disability has failed to solve food shortage issues for one Lithgow couple.
Frenzied panic buying and aisles of empty shelves across Australia has led to the introduction of the shopping hour from 7-8am weekdays across the country.
Annmarie Tomazin is a full time carer to husband Mitch who is living with a terminal illness. He suffers from Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (CIDP), a condition that targets your body's nerves. He also suffers from diabetes, heart and kidney disease.
The couple recently tried out the dedicated shopping hour but found it difficult and said shelves were still empty.
"We are finding the designated shopping hour very frustrating as we go to try and purchase essentials, only to find empty shelves with no stock available," she said.
"We are also feeling judged because we have this time before other shoppers."
Three days a week the couple travel 90 minutes for Mr Tomazin's dialysis treatment and due to this Mrs Tomazin finds it difficult to buy grocery essential or do a weekly shop.
"...then waking up early and dragging my disabled husband out to do shopping with no success, it is very difficult," she said.
"I understand it is a hard time for everyone in this time of crisis, but for the disabled and elderly who are already fragile, it's extremely difficult and heartbreaking to make the effort and struggle to get to the shops to buy necessities that we can't seem to buy on a daily basis."
The couple said they have also been abused while grocery shopping.
"I was abused by an elderly man because I purchased three 12 packs of toilet paper in an IGA in Bathurst, as I could not purchase any in Lithgow," Mrs Tomazin said.
"I bought two for ourselves, a household of four and one for my 70 year old mother in-law, only to be told by this man that 'it was because of people like you that we have no toilet paper'."
Mrs Tomazin said she didn't take the last of the toilet paper and was just thinking of her family and minding her own business when she was abused.
"It was disgraceful but unfortunately people are scared and worried and instead of supporting each other we are attacking innocent people. After all we are in the same boat, let's remind people of our community spirit," she said.
Recently Mr Tomazin, who was in his wheelchair, was pushed, passed and stepped over while trying to get toilet paper off the shelves in a supermarked.
"I was appalled at the way my husband was treated in our town, we had gone to the shop to see what we could buy as we were down to no toilet paper," Mrs Tomazin said.
"We were going through the aisles getting what we could and saw a lady so excited that she had found some toilet paper, she told me to go to the back of the store in the toilet paper aisle where they [staff] were handing it out.
"We proceeded to go there only for my hubby to be rudely pushed, passed and stepped over whilst in his wheelchair."
Mrs Tomazin said that one lovely lady helped in the daunting situation.
"This lady made sure the staff handed out a pack of toilet paper to us, and if it wasn't for that lady we would have missed out," she said.
"So to that lady we say thank you."
Mrs Tomazin said that since the focus for everyone everyday is the coronavirus, people are thinking the worst so they are panic buying.
"There were just regular people lining up waiting to get in early too... people are freaking out, it doesn't matter that health professionals and our PM [Prime Minister] are saying remain calm, but in reality there is no calm," she said.
To try and save time coming out to the shops multiple times a week, Mrs Tomazin said she tried to buy a little extra in case she couldn't find the particular item again. But with the item limits this has caused some problems.
"This affects us because life is extremely hard to go to a shop every day due to health reasons and medical treatment commitments, so it has annoyed me but we also have to share," she said.
Mrs Tomazin had a message for all those people who have been hoarding groceries.
"To all you people who are hoarding groceries in your home and emptying out the shelves, spare a minute for the disabled or elderly person who has organised a carer or loved one and time to go get their necessities only to be left there staring at an empty shelf," she said.
Mrs Tomazin said since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak people had lost respect for one another.
"For all of us to survive this we need to get back community spirit and look out for each other, so stop panic buying and if you see a disabled or elderly person please take a moment and think how hard this is on everyone.
"This is hard on everyone but on our most fragile it's that little bit harder so show some compassion."