CVS pharmacists walk off the job to protest working conditions


CVS Health is grappling with walkouts by pharmacists protesting working conditions and closing several pharmacies in and around Kansas City, Missouri.

The nation’s largest retail pharmacy chain saw a dozen of its locations unexpectedly shut down Sept. 21 and 22 in protests that spread this week to include nearly two dozen pharmacists throughout the Kansas City metropolitan area, published reports and advocates say.

“These issues have been going on for over 10 years across all the major chains and have gotten exponentially worse during the pandemic with increased services such as COVID vaccinations and testing, while staffing has been reduced and hours have been shortened,” Lannie Duong, a clinical pharmacist in California who advocates on behalf of pharmacy workers, said in an email.

CVS said the layoffs are not affecting its business. “Our ability to serve patients in Kansas City was not impacted today and we are not seeing any abnormal activity in other markets,” a spokesman said Wednesday in an email. CVS also said it was providing additional resources to support stores “that may have capacity.”

CVS sent Chief Pharmacy Officer Prem Shah to meet with pharmacists on Tuesday, but she reneged on an agreement to issue a public apology to employees and customers, according to Bled Tanoe, an independent pharmacist who is speaking for organizers of the protests.

Staff shortage

Pharmacists are tired amid a backlog of prescriptions and having insufficient staff to answer phones and administer flu and new COVID-19 vaccinations, said Tanoe, a former Walgreens pharmacist who created the hashtag #pizzaisnotworking in 2021 to decry working conditions. which she claimed could not be solved by providing a free meal to staff.

Pharmacy chains formerly employed technicians and clerks to answer calls and handle other tasks to keep operations running smoothly.

“At CVS and the other stores now, it’s just you and hopefully one technician in there, and as soon as the phone rings, one part of the workflow is taken out, and if the phone rings again, it’s completely shut down,” said Chris Adkins, an attorney and pharmacist who left CVS after nine months and now works at Capsule, an independent pharmacy startup in Los Angeles.


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The difficulties facing pharmacists are not new, but have gotten worse in recent years, according to the Kansas Pharmacists Association. More than half, or 57%, of pharmacists investigated of the Kansas Board of Pharmacy reported that they do not have enough time to do their jobs safely and effectively. Lack of staff and employer quotas were the biggest factors cited.

The association “is aware of and supports pharmacists and pharmacy staff protesting unsafe working conditions that endanger the health of their patients,” the state trade group said Monday in a announcement on its website.

“When pharmacies are paid for the number of prescriptions that cross their counters rather than the clinical knowledge and services they provide to their patients, the system inappropriately values ​​medication volume over safety and quality of health care,” Kansas Pharmacists stated.

Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in California “stand with our colleagues across the country who are courageously protesting poor working conditions to preserve and protect patient safety,” the California Pharmacists Association said in a news release Wednesday release.


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