Workers at some of the nation’s largest drugstore chains, from CVS to Walgreens, have planned another “walkout” starting Monday as they continue to advocate for better working conditions.
They call it “pharmageddon,” Shane Jerominski, a licensed pharmacist for more than a decade who is helping coordinate the latest protest, told FOX Business.
Monday through Wednesday, workers at Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid committed to calling in sick, according to Jerominski. This follows a protest earlier this month in which Walgreens employees at 200 of its nearly 9,000 locations called in sick. Shortly before, CVS workers at at least a dozen Kansas stores failed to show up for work in a separate walkout.
Jerominski says workers are demanding a series of measures to ease the onslaught of tasks they have taken on in recent years. Some of the biggest demands include guaranteed hours and better pay for technicians. They also want pharmacists and pharmacy managers to have a direct say in planning.
The hope is that these changes will result in better staffing in stores, improve their work-life balance and reduce the margin for error that they say could impact patient safety.
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“We are a force to be reckoned with and we demand more from those who would see us and those we care for suffer,” said a letter sent to Walgreens staff by the “pharmaggedon” organizers.
It’s unclear how many people will be involved in this latest effort, according to Jerominski. However, according to a poll posted on his social media page, The Accidental Pharmacist, more than 2,000 people said: “I’m all for this, no matter what.” »
An additional 1,442 people said they would participate provided “hundreds, if not thousands, of pharmacists and technicians” participated, according to screenshots of the survey seen by FOX Business.
In addition to asking people to call in sick, Jerominski is also trying to organize protests in front of CVS and Walgreens headquarters this week to make their movement more visible.
Jerominski does not consider himself one of the main organizers of this effort. However, he feels he is well-positioned to help given the reach of his social media account and his experience as a pharmacist for Walgreens and CVS before moving to independent retail pharmacy later in his career.
The Accidental Pharmacist Facebook page has 122,000 followers, most of whom are pharmacists, technicians and other healthcare workers. Jerominksi says he receives direct messages “constantly about working conditions.”
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The pharmacist who organized the first walkout at Walgreens earlier this month, and who spoke to FOX Business on condition of anonymity, previously warned that workers would escalate the matter with a pharmacy-wide protest if their problems were not resolved.
The problem is that large pharmacy chains have not been able to effectively staff their stores and pharmacies. At the same time, they sped up vaccine appointments, causing pharmacies to fall behind in filling prescriptions, according to the pharmacist.
“Our stores still have thousands of prescriptions late. Our patients still go days, weeks, even months without the medications they need. And they pretend there’s no problem,” he said. the pharmacist told FOX Business on Friday. “Until they recognize that there is a real problem and they work to solve the real problem… we have to keep pushing.”
Jerominksi said he had also heard about this problem from other workers. He also reviewed internal documents from some CVS stores, viewed by FOX Business, indicating they are a week late.
“It can take forever before a patient finally gets their medication,” he said.
But that’s only part of the problem, according to Jerominski.
“Any time the pharmacist moves away from verifying prescriptions, you introduce the risk of error,” he said.
The pharmacist who organized the Walgreens walkout agrees, previously telling FOX Business that, “in an industry where a missed decimal point, missed number or letter can mean life or death for a patient, it becomes Really a dangerous situation when you’re understaffed. and overworked. »
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|WALGREENS ALLIANCE BOOTS INC.
Pharmacist and Jerominski said that since margins are higher on vaccines, they are the priority.
“It used to be just during flu season, but now it’s year-round, whether it’s COVID boosters or RSV,” Jerominski said.
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Amid growing issues in the industry, a Rite Aid spokesperson told FOX Business the company is committed to “providing safe, productive and supportive work environments for all of our associates, including our pharmacists dedicated workers, who serve our communities by providing vaccines, prescriptions. and daily tips on overall health.
The company says its efforts over the past few years and months to improve work-life balance, as well as working conditions for pharmacists, “are proof of our commitment to the team.”
A CVS spokesperson said it is not seeing any “unusual activity regarding unscheduled pharmacy closures or pharmacist walkouts” and is working with its pharmacists to directly address their concerns.
The spokesperson added that the company is working to develop a “scalable action plan to support both our pharmacists and our customers, which can be implemented in markets where support may be needed” .
Walgreens says it has taken “a number of steps across our pharmacies to ensure our teams can focus on providing optimal patient care.” This includes improving technology and centralizing many of its operations to help maintain “appropriate workloads.”
Nonetheless, the company said it continues to focus on how it recruits, retains and rewards pharmaceutical staff.