A quiet 'pharmageddon' walkout

There's been no way to confirm how many pharmacists and pharmacy technicians have participated at planned walkouts at CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens locations nationwide, though estimates and reports suggest a quiet turnout. 

'Pharmageddon' is the nickname for the planned three-day walkout that began Oct. 30 and has affected an uncertain number of locations. One estimate organizers previously shared with USA Today was that 4,500 people may have participated in the protests across the retail pharmacy chains' locations. That's about 2% of the Walgreens and CVS' combined pharmacist and pharmacy technician workforce of 186,000. Other reports have put the number at "hundreds." 

In Chicago, the walkouts have not affected pharmacy services, a local CBS News affiliate reported. 

Because pharmacists employed by the companies are not unionized, there's a lack of concrete information to demonstrate the scope of the walkouts. The retail pharmacy giants say there's been zero to minimal disruptions. On Oct. 31, a Walgreens spokesperson told news outlets two of its 8,800 pharmacies were affected. As of Nov. 1, none of its pharmacies were closed due to the walkouts, a spokesperson said in an emailed statement to Becker's

"We recognize the incredible work our pharmacists do every day, especially this time of year when there is increased demand for their services across communities. 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. Nearly all of our 25,000 pharmacists continue to serve their customers and communities this week, and we thank them for it. There are no Walgreens pharmacies anywhere in the U.S. that are closed today due to walkouts," the company said. 

In a statement sent to Becker's Nov. 1, CVS said it continues to serve patients and is "not seeing any unusual activity regarding unplanned pharmacy closures or pharmacist walkouts." 

"We're committed to providing access to consistent, safe, high-quality healthcare to the patients and communities we serve and are engaging in a continuous two-way dialogue with our pharmacists to directly address any concerns they have."

Organizers say the protests are in response to pharmacies' unreasonable performance demands, understaffing, patient situations escalating in violence and limited resources — issues pharmacy workers have long pointed to as risks to patient safety. 

"In response to recent feedback from our pharmacy teams, we're making targeted improvements to address their key concerns, including enabling teams to schedule additional support as needed, enhancing pharmacist and technician recruitment and hiring, and strengthening pharmacy technician training. Our goal is to develop a sustainable and scalable action plan to support both our pharmacists and our customers so we can continue delivering the high-quality care our patients depend on," CVS said in its statement. 

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