After several walkouts protesting poor working conditions, company executives and protest organizers came to an agreement that includes more hours for technicians and vaccinations being reduced to a manageable volume.
Around 32 pharmacists employed by CVS stores in the Kansas City metro area staged a walkout on Wednesday to protest working conditions they say put the safety of employees and patients at significant risk, ABC 17 News reported.1
The walkout follows similar protests that occurred at 22 CVS pharmacy locations in Kansas and Missouri last Thursday and Friday. Those walkouts mostly impacted CVS locations inside Target retail stores, but a few stand-alone CVS stores were also forced to close after employees called in sick.
Organizers of the walkouts said that CVS has cut the number of hours that a technician can work each week, leaving pharmacists alone for a majority of the time to handle daily operations. They also said that recent corporate policies have cut pharmacy hours in Target stores so pharmacists can help fix performance issues at different stand-alone CVS locations.
“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,” a pharmacist associated with the walkout told KCTV 5 News.2 “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.”
Several pharmacy organizations released statements in support of the Kansas City pharmacists after news of the walkouts broke. The Kansas Pharmacists Association, the Pharmacists Society of the State of New York, and the American Pharmacists Association all said they stand with the Kansas City pharmacists.
“All pharmacists take the Oath of a Pharmacist and in it, they vow to embrace and advocate changes that improve patient care,” the Kansas Pharmacists Association said.3 “We support the pharmacists and pharmacy personnel who are, at risk to themselves and their jobs, advocating for better working conditions that protect the health and safety of their pharmacy teams and their patients.”
In response to the walkouts, CVS sent several executives to Kanas City to meet with organizers and released an internal memo apologizing for not addressing concerns sooner. According to a copy of the memo obtained by USA Today, Prem Shah, chief pharmacy officer and president of pharmacy and consumer wellness at CVS, said that the company is taking “a series of actions effective immediately.”4
On Reddit, a user named Blackout5154 shared a statement that was said to be from organizers of the Kansas City walkouts. The statement listed multiple measures that are reportedly being implemented at CVS pharmacies to help alleviate some of the issues. They included approving more hours for technicians, extra pay for overtime, laptops pharmacists can use to assist stores virtually, and vaccinations being reduced to a more manageable volume.
“Thank you to our patients for your support over the past 7 days,” the statement said. “We know it was not easy for you, but we appreciate your sacrifices and we can't wait to get back to our stores TOMORROW to thank you in person. Thank you to ALL of the Pharmacists in Kansas City for taking this stand and making such a positive impact on our profession.”
The poor working conditions at CVS stores in Kansas City comes after the Ohio Capital Journal reported similar issues at locations in Ohio earlier this month. Pharmacists there said they have been experiencing severe understaffing issues that have led to problems with patient care. This led the Ohio Board of Pharmacy to send inspectors to 13 CVS locations. Their reports said that some stores were so understaffed that there was dirty conditions, a lack of control over dangerous medications, months-long wait times, and high employee turnover.
The Ohio Board of pharmacy proposed sweeping new rules in response, which included staffing mandates, a set maximum time to fill prescriptions, greater authority to pharmacists to suspend non-core services, and the prohibition of retaliation against employees who follow the rules.
“We want you, our valued pharmacy teams, to be in a position to succeed,” Shah said in the memo to Kansas City pharmacists. “We are working hard to support you and are here to help and create sustainable solutions.”