CVS, one of the largest pharmacy chains in the US, has responded to the concerns of its pharmacists who staged a walkout last week in the Kansas City area over their overwhelming workload. The company has pledged to fill open positions and increase staffing levels to ease the pressure on its pharmacy teams.
Pharmacists demand better working conditions
The walkout, which involved pharmacists from at least a dozen CVS pharmacies, took place on Thursday and Friday last week and was planned to continue on Wednesday this week. The pharmacists, who are not unionized, did not show up for work to protest against the long hours, lack of breaks, and increased responsibilities they face in their jobs.
The pharmacists said they were struggling to cope with the demand for prescription drugs, COVID-19 testing and vaccinations, flu shots, and other services, while also ensuring patient safety and quality of care. They also complained about the lack of communication and support from the company’s management.
One of the pharmacists, who spoke anonymously to USA Today, said: “We are exhausted, burned out, and feel like we are drowning. We love our patients and want to provide them with the best care possible, but we can’t do that under these conditions.”
CVS apologizes and promises to take action
CVS, which operates more than 9,900 pharmacies across the US, acknowledged the issues raised by its pharmacists and apologized for not addressing them sooner. The company sent its chief pharmacy officer, Prem Shah, to meet with the pharmacists in Kansas City and listen to their concerns.
In a memo to the staff, Shah said: “We want you, our valued pharmacy teams, to be in a position to succeed. We are working hard to support you and are here to help and create sustainable solutions.” He also promised to remain in the city until the problems are resolved and to come back regularly to check on the progress.
Shah said the company would hire more pharmacists and technicians, as well as provide additional training and resources, to reduce the workload and improve the workflow. He also encouraged the pharmacists to share their feedback and suggestions, even anonymously, to help the company improve its operations and culture.
The company’s spokeswoman, Amy Thibault, said: “CVS is focused on addressing the concerns raised by our pharmacists so we can continue to deliver the high-quality care our patients depend on.”
Workload concerns are common in the industry
The walkout in Kansas City is not an isolated incident, but reflects a broader trend of workload concerns among pharmacists in the US. According to a survey by the American Pharmacists Association, 68% of pharmacists reported increased stress levels due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and 43% said they were considering leaving the profession.
The survey also found that pharmacists faced challenges such as inadequate staffing, insufficient personal protective equipment, increased workload, and reduced hours and pay. Many pharmacists also reported experiencing verbal abuse, harassment, and threats from customers.
Ron Fitzwater, CEO of the Missouri Pharmacy Association, said the workload issues are related to the lack of funding and investment in the pharmacy sector. He said: “It all relates to not enough dollars going in to hire the appropriate staff to be able to deliver the services.”
Fitzwater said the pharmacists’ walkout was a “wake-up call” for the industry and the regulators to address the situation and ensure the safety and well-being of both the pharmacists and the patients.