The shortage of pharmacists across the country is hitting people here in central Indiana hard.
Some locations may have limited hours and this restricts people’s access to their life-saving medication.
“It’s just a really frustrating time,” said Veronica Vernon, assistant professor of pharmacy practice at Butler University.
“I think I want everyone to know that your pharmacy staff is really frustrated too.”
From new incentives to new school programs and recruiting younger students, Vernon says there’s a lot in the works to boost the pharmacy workforce in Indiana.
Vernon is also the president of the Indiana Pharmacist Association, and she says chain stores offer bonuses to pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to work for them.
A Kroger spokesperson said:
“Most of our Kroger pharmacies have reinstated hours of operation to overcome the challenges of COVID. We expect progress to continue in the coming weeks, maintaining Kroger Health’s commitment to helping people live healthier lives.”
A Walgreens representative said something similar and released this statement.
“Overall, what we’ve seen in some areas is in line with what many other healthcare facilities have experienced – staffing challenges due to ongoing labor shortages and continued demand for COVID-related services. As a result, there have been some instances where we have had to adjust or shorten pharmacy hours as we work to balance staff and resources in the marketplace to best meet customer demand. We continue to take steps to reduce current staffing pressures, including continuously reviewing staffing levels in our pharmacies to meet the needs of our customers and patients, and hiring thousands (approximately 9,000 as of the end of 2020) of new pharmacy team members . We are grateful for the responsibilities our pharmacists have been fulfilling since the start of the pandemic, whether it’s administering life-saving vaccines or helping patients keep up with prescriptions and health surveys.”
Scott Goldberg, Director of Global Corporate Communications
Vernon also says that two of the three pharmacy schools in Indiana, Butler and Manchester, are also working on adding a new hybrid online program to give people more access to classes.
The schools are also starting to recruit high school students to interest them in the subject.
Vernon says it’s ultimately to help the patients.
“I never want my patients to go without their meds. And this can be a life or death situation if you run out of medication and your pharmacy is closed and you don’t expect it to be closed that day.”
She also says the pandemic has accelerated pharmacist burnout. Many leave community pharmacy for other careers in hospitals and doctor’s offices or clinics. And she says many pharmacies have closed and the workload for those still open has increased.
Vernon, a pharmacist herself for more than a decade, says her colleagues have stepped up during the pandemic by offering COVID 19 vaccinations and tests in addition to their day-to-day jobs, but the workforce and wages have not increased to meet those demands.
“We don’t want to shorten our hours, but we’re in a predicament where we don’t have enough staff to run the store and our pharmacists have been working six to seven, eight, nine, ten days in a row. and physically we can do no more.”
Vernon says if you have any medications you rely on, it’s best to call at least a week in advance if you need a refill. Also, look for an alternative pharmacy that you can go to that will also take your insurance, if you have one.
Vernon says there’s a lot of pressure on community pharmacies right now.
“We now have a lot of prescriptions to fill, unfortunately we see pharmacies doing 13, 14.15 hours of work where they were normally open before then, in a seven or eight hour period,” Vernon said.
Vernon also says the Indiana Pharmacist Association is devoting its fall meeting in September to working on solutions to the problems and how they can address them statewide by working with the schools and various pharmacies.
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