CVS pharmacists voice concern over working conditions

Some CVS pharmacists in Kansas City are calling out of work Sept. 27 to bring attention to increasingly difficult working conditions, USA Today reported. 

Kansas City organizers have encouraged CVS pharmacists across the nation to join them in the protest. It is unclear how many pharmacists are participating. Mike DeAngelis, executive director of corporate communications for CVS, told Becker's the company was experiencing normal pharmacy operations nationwide and in its Kansas City market Sept. 27.

The protest is the second in less than a week. On Sept. 21, nearly two dozen pharmacists called out of work, forcing about 10 CVS locations in eastern Kansas and western Missouri to close, according to a separate USA Today report. All locations resumed normal operations Sept. 23. 

Kansas City pharmacists say their actions are in response to increasingly challenging working conditions, which is putting patients and pharmacists at risk. Pandemic-related stressors have worsened existing pharmacy shortages over the past few years and magnified burnout among staff members nationwide, causing many to leave the field.

"The workload is so heavy and the amount of staff they allot us is so low that I’m unable to go to the bathroom during my 10-hour shift," one pharmacist, who wished to remain anonymous, told the publication. 

Mr. DeAngelis said industrywide pharmacist shortages have made it difficult to staff the retail chain's more than 9,000 stores and that demand for vaccinations is further straining pharmacies this fall. After the Sept. 21 walkout, CVS executives met with pharmacists and pharmacy staff at several Kansas City locations to understand their concerns. 

"Our pharmacy leadership team is in Kansas City this week to listen to feedback from our pharmacists," Mr. DeAngelis said. "We always seek to work with our pharmacists to directly address any concerns they may have — which is why we've taken several actions to support our local teams in Kansas City and Missouri, including bringing in more staffing support and providing additional training." 

CVS Chief Pharmacy Officer Prem Shah, PharmD, also issued a memo to staff in the Kansas City market Sept. 26, which was obtained by USA Today.

"I want to apologize to our pharmacy teams that we haven't addressed these concerns in the region more quickly," Dr. Shah said. "With the currently unprecedented demand for vaccinations from our patients in mind, we are taking a series of actions effective immediately."

These efforts include providing additional resources for pharmacies, adjusting appointments, filling open positions and removing unnecessary tasks for pharmacists. 

The American Pharmacists Association and Kansas Pharmacists Association have both released statements in support of Kansas City pharmacists. 

Editor's note: This article was updated Sept. 27 at 4:15 p.m. CT.

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