COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
CVS Pharmacy employees across Missouri are protesting what they are calling “poor working conditions and sub-par Regional leadership”.
ABC 17 News spoke with six employees of CVS, four of which work at a Mid-Missouri CVS locations. All six wished to remain anonymous due to the possibility of retaliation.
The first walkouts began on Thursday and Friday when 12 Kansas City CVS locations unexpectedly closed as part of the protest. The Columbia CVS located at 2400 Bernadette Drive also closed its doors on Thursday as part of the walkout.
In response, pharmacists were pulled from other locations last week to help cover the walkouts, which has led to further staffing issues.
“This walkout was in protest of a brutal work environment that CVS has created which fosters extreme stress, anxiety, and even tears,” one worker wrote.
The complaints stem from CVS scheduling issues, placing extra strain on employees. CVS has also allegedly cut the number of hours that a pharmacist can have a technician to help them. Oftentimes, only one person runs the entire pharmacy.
“I was there all by myself. We were 82 pages behind. Each page represents 15 scripts,” an employee who was forced to cover one of Columbia’s Schnucks locations said. “I was there all by myself for three straight days.”
According to another employee, these issues have been going on for multiple years.
“You would never see a doctor's office operate like this. It’s not safe to be open,” another employee added. “Verifying prescriptions is hard enough, but when it is just one person holding down the fort there are added expectations We also have to answer phones, run the drive thru and give vaccines.”
According to multiple pharmacists, the locations inside of Targets have been affected the most.
An employee who works inside a Target location told ABC 17 News that they have been covering the entire pharmacy with just one other person for a month and a half. Oftentimes, help comes in the form of students looking for a part-time job.
“Today (Monday), she (the student) didn’t come in until 4 p.m.”, the pharmacist said while pointing to the student technician that was helping her.
A CVS spokesperson wrote in a statement that a handful of locations in the Kansas City area were closed last Thursday and Friday, primarily in Target stores. All of the locations reopened Saturday and the company is talking to Kansas City-area employees about their concerns, according to the statement.
We’re committed to providing access to consistent, safe, high-quality health care to the patients and communities we serve. On Thursday and Friday of last week, a handful of Kansas City area CVS Pharmacy locations, primarily in Target, were temporarily closed, and we apologize to anyone who was inconvenienced by this. All of those locations reopened on Saturday, except those few that do not typically have weekend hours of operation. We continually invest in technology and training to make sure our pharmacies are open when our patients most want them to be. We’ve also reached out directly to our pharmacy teams in the Kansas City market so that we may directly address the concerns they’ve raised that led to this brief and limited interruption in service.
The walkouts and scheduling issues have had an impact on CVS's ability to give vaccines and flu shots.
“At this point, some pharmacies are refusing to do them cause it’s just not possible,” one of the employees said. “Their [CVS executives] decision was if you’re over 100 prescriptions behind they are going to clear out all your vaccinations for the day and have no more appointments.”
"But what they did was take them out of those stores and throw them on top of another store," an employee stated. "Without scheduling additional help they threw all the vaccinations down the street to the other one that wasn’t so far behind. So there were stores that were open today with over 125 vaccinations to do today with one pharmacist on top of their regular workload. In one hour there were 16 vaccinations scheduled for one pharmacist on top of what they were doing.”
This has angered many people who have made appointments and added long wait times.
A viewer, who had a COVID-19 vaccine and flu shot appointment sent ABC 17 a photo of inside a Target in Jefferson City location the day of the walkout on Thursday that read:
“Due to lack of staff and support from corporate, (overlapping pharmacist, extra technician help, ect) We are unable to give vaccines today. We will HOWEVER stay open to help out patients. Please contact 1-800- SHOP CVS to help advocate for us, our working conditions are unsafe and we want to focus on getting your prescriptions done timely and accurately.”
The viewer then called the 800 number to complain about being unable to get a vaccine.
"The first woman I spoke with at the 800 number told me this was unacceptable behavior of a store and not a representation of the CVS company," the viewer wrote.
These walkouts are expected to continue Wednesday across the country, including locations in Kansas City, Columbia, Jefferson City, Burbank, CA, and multiple stores in Oklahoma, according to an employee who has worked for CVS for 15 years.