Along with sickouts and walkouts in protest of what they describe as unbearable workloads that could impact patient safety, pharmacists have discussed protesting at the corporate headquarters of CVS in Woonsocket, Rhode Island and Walgreens in Deerfield, Illinois, according to California-based pharmacist Lannie Duong, one of the key organizers of the protests.
USA Today reported that protest organizers estimated as many as 4,500 pharmacists, technicians and staff from multiple chains, including CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens, have been drawn by "Pharmageddon" efforts. (Related: THE VANISHING: Pharmacist shortage prompts closures at CVS, Walmart pharmacy locations.)
American Pharmacists Association (APHA) CEO Michael D. Hogue said in a statement that they stand with every striking pharmacist and pharmacy staff. APHA is the industry's largest professional organization.
"We support every pharmacist’s right to work in an environment with staffing that supports your ability to provide patient care. We know that these are steps you deem necessary in order to be heard by your employer. For far too long, employers have made the situation worse than it needed to be," he stated.
Hogue added that the quotas requiring pharmacists to fill a certain number of prescriptions or administer large numbers of vaccinations are destroying their relationships with patients. "Supervisors who are not pharmacists do not understand the needs of care teams and make unreasonable demands on time-based productivity."
The Virginia Pharmacy Association also stands firmly in support of pharmacists and other pharmacy staff. The association said: "The news of pharmacists leaving their jobs in other cities, saying 'enough,' and walking away, is truly a sign of desperation coming from professionals who, although committed to a lifetime of helping patients, found themselves needing to take a stand."
Florida Pharmacy Association’s interim Executive Vice President and CEO Michael Jackson said there's less money to go around to pay for additional pharmacy staff because health insurance reimbursements to pharmacies for prescription services provided are not going up but going down.
"It’s creating a situation where there is tremendous pressure on pharmacies to provide these services at lower costs, which has translated into heavier workloads for current pharmacy staff and increasing the chances of pharmacists and technicians making mistakes when filling prescriptions," explained Jackson.
"Patient safety is the utmost thing that's most important to these frontline pharmacists. They're not saying we need more dollars. They're saying we need more support, more help to do the things that we're being asked to do. And I think that's not an unfair ask."
In a statement, a Walgreens spokesperson said the company recognizes the incredible work their pharmacy staff are doing daily and has taken several steps to ensure that pharmacy teams can concentrate on providing optimal patient care.
"Our leaders are in our pharmacies regularly, listening to concerns and frustrations and responding to feedback. We have taken steps over the last two years to improve pharmacists' experience, advance the profession and enable them to provide the high-value care they were trained to do."
CVS is making targeted investments that will address the key concerns of their pharmacy staff, including "enabling teams to schedule additional support as needed, enhancing pharmacist and technician recruitment and hiring, and strengthening pharmacy technician training," said a company spokesperson.
In September and October, employees of national pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens, have taken turns in the "Pharmageddon" series of sickouts and walkouts for anywhere from one to two days. Several walkouts nationally are expected to continue to "raise awareness about understaffing and improve working conditions."
NBC News reported that the protesters are asking their employers to hire more staff and eliminate policies encouraging them to work harder, which they say increases the likelihood of accidental harm to patients.
"The pharmacists' concerns are real," said Dr. Lucas Berenbrock, an associate professor of Pharmacy and Therapeutics at the University of Pittsburgh. "They are the last people a patient sees before taking medication, so having proper staffing and compensation for the many jobs that pharmacists are required to do on a day-to-day basis is key."
Berenbrock added: "Everything that they do is about getting the right medications to the right patient, at the right dose, at the right time. And that all is about patient safety."
Walgreens Colorado pharmacist Nathan Fuller said: "I think most of us who are participating [in "Pharmageddon"] feel like we haven't been heard. People are either so burned out or fed up with the way things have been going that it's hit a bursting point. If we continue to go down the direction we’re going, it’s going to be too unsafe."
True enough, a recent USA Today investigation found that chain pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens have consistently slashed staffing levels while "saddling their frontline workers with a burgeoning list of additional duties."
Watch this video about pharmacies shutting down due to worker shortages.
This video is from the Martin Brodel channel on Brighteon.com.