According to organizers of the protest, employees at drugstores across the nation began reporting sick on Monday to draw attention to the insufficient support provided by their employers.
The scope and influence of the protest, scheduled to continue until Wednesday, were not yet known as of Monday afternoon.
According to Lannie Duong, a pharmacist helping to coordinate the protest, many pharmacists and technicians from various drugstores have reported being absent due to illness by midday. The protest organizers believe that at least hundreds of individuals employed by major retailers such as Walgreens and CVS Health are participating.
Pharmacists have been facing challenging work environments for an extended period of time. These challenges were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, as stores experienced an influx of individuals seeking testing, vaccines, and treatments.
According to Walgreens representative Fraser Engerman, the company was forced to shut down three out of its almost 9,000 stores in the United States because of issues with their employees.
According to CVS Health representative Amy Thibault, the company has not observed any unusual occurrences of unplanned pharmacy closures or pharmacist walkouts.
The current week’s protests were a continuation of a previous demonstration from earlier this month, which also focused on Walgreens, and another one from last month that took place at CVS stores in the Kansas City region.
According to Duong, a clinical pharmacist from California, retail pharmacists are not seeking increased compensation or time off, but they do advocate for higher wages for technicians. The focus of their protest is to ensure that employees can perform their duties in a safe manner.
Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians dispense medications, address customer inquiries regarding medication shortages, operate the drive-thru window, and offer an increasing level of healthcare services and counseling.
Pharmacists in many stores now help people quit smoking and monitor their blood sugar. Many also test and treat for the flu, COVID-19 and strep throat.
Next, let’s consider vaccinations. While some are given throughout the year, during autumn drugstores experience an influx of individuals looking for immunization against the influenza and COVID-19. Additionally, there is a newly available vaccine for individuals over 60 years old to protect against RSV.
A former pharmacist from Walgreens and CVS, Shane Jerominski, who helped coordinate this week’s protest, stated that administering a high number of vaccines reduces the time available to verify and dispense prescriptions.
He stated that many companies encourage pharmacists to inquire about customers’ vaccine requirements at the checkout counter.
Jerominski, who is currently employed at an independent drugstore in California, compared the role of pharmacists and technicians to that of perfume salesmen in malls. He expressed that they are often expected to upsell to every customer.
Drugstore employees’ concerns are being heard by representatives, according to Thibault. CVS Health is currently making efforts to provide its pharmacies with the space to schedule additional staff. The company is also striving to enhance its recruitment and hiring of pharmacists and technicians.
Walgreens has launched 11 processing centers across the nation with the goal of fulfilling standard prescriptions for long-term medications and reducing the workload for in-store pharmacists.
Engerman mentioned that the performance-based metrics have been eliminated for the pharmacists within the company.
According to Duong, in order to prevent medication errors, it is crucial for retail pharmacies to have adequate staffing to avoid hazardous working conditions.
She stated that there is no alternative solution.
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