COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
On Wednesday CVS pharmacists across Missouri participated in a walkout to protest “inhumane working conditions and unsafe patient care."
This comes after similar walkouts were staged last week.
Sources tell ABC 17 that at least 32 pharmacists in the Kansas City-metro area participated in the walk-out.
ABC 17 News has spoken with several employees of Mid-Missouri CVS locations. All wished to remain anonymous due to the possibility of retaliation. Employees stated earlier this week that complaints stem from CVS scheduling issues, placing extra strain on employees. They claimed CVS also cut the number of hours that a pharmacist can have a technician to help them. Oftentimes, only one person runs the entire pharmacy.
The Columbia Target location on 2400 Bernadette Drive was among those that participated in the walk-out. A note was left on the counter of the pharmacy that read:
“Due to chronic under-staffing among a host of workplace issues, this Pharmacy will be closed for today. We are very sorry to you, our patients, for the inconvenience. If you have time, please call and voice your concern about staffing and patient safety.”
CVS responded to the walkouts by pulling pharmacists from other locations to help cover the shifts in an effort to keep all of their locations open. One pharmacist who was pulled from another location told ABC 17 News that they received the call from CVS early in the morning.
“Though these closed stores are currently open, they are even more short-staffed than before, as CVS was more concerned in having the buildings open for business than for the safety of the patients,” a pharmacist who participated in the walkout but wished to remain anonymous wrote in an email to ABC 17 News.
“These stores are open but are functioning with extremely limited resources in the majority of the impacted stores, with many only having 1 Pharmacist and 1 or even ZERO Technicians for support,” the source added. "There are stores with 140+ vaccination appointments with only 1 Pharmacist on duty, there are stores 1700+ scripts behind and only 1 Pharmacist on duty to meet that demand. Would you want your prescription filled in an environment of such extreme stress and chaos?”
Another pharmacist who was asked to cover one of the locations in Missouri told ABC 17 News that they had to work the entire pharmacy by themselves; and when they arrived there were 300 prescriptions to fill. They expected to fill an additional 70 scripts by the time the shift was over.
CVS -- in a statement -- claimed patients in Kansas City weren't impacted and didn't see "any abnormal activity in other markets." The company stated it has been meeting with employees in the Kansas City area.
"We want our pharmacy teams to be able to succeed, which is why we’ve taken several actions to support our local teams including providing additional pharmacy resources to support stores that may be at capacity, providing additional support for filling open positions, and increasing staffing levels," the statement reads. "We recognize that there’s an industry-wide shortage of healthcare providers – including pharmacists – and that this is a busy time of year due to the high customer demand for seasonal vaccinations. We’re focused on addressing the concerns raised by our pharmacists so we can continue to deliver the high-quality care our patients depend on."
The complaints from pharmacists about the current working conditions are not just limited to Missouri. A former CVS pharmacist who worked in an Oklahoma City location told ABC 17 News that once she became a pharmacy manager, she would work open-to-close and at times have to stay after hours to catch up on duties because of a lack of staffing. She added that she did not get paid for the time she had to stay late.
ABC 17 News visited three Schnucks-CVS locations in Columbia and Jefferson City. Two of the three stated they did not participate in the walkout, one declined to comment.
A Schnucks employee said they are experiencing similar scheduling issues. According to the employee, other employees had to come in overnight to fill prescriptions. They also said this did not happen nearly as often before CVS took over.
The employee said that when CVS first signed an agreement with Schnucks in 2020, all the pharmacists who used to work there left within six months.