This article was updated on September 27, 2023.
Several CVS pharmacies in the Kansas City metro area were forced to close late last week after pharmacists and staff at the stores staged a walkout over poor working conditions, The Kansas City Star reported.1
What’s the Issue?
Pharmacists at 22 CVS pharmacy locations in eastern Kansas and western Missouri called in sick Thursday and Friday to protest recent corporate decisions they say put the staff and patients at risk. Most of the walkouts impacted CVS locations inside of Target retail stores.
- Pharmacists say that CVS has cut the number of hours that a technician can work each week, which makes it more difficult for pharmacists to perform daily functions.
- Multiple CVS locations inside of Target stores have also cut pharmacy hours and forced pharmacists to work in stand-alone CVS locations to help fix performance issues.
Why it Matters
Pharmacists who staged the walkout said the decisions by CVS to cut technician and pharmacy hours affects their ability to safely fill and verify prescriptions, potentially putting patients at risk of significant harm.2
- One employee said that the CVS location where they worked was open 64 hours a week, but they were only allowed help from a technician for 20 of those hours.
- Another pharmacist told USA Today that they couldn’t physically handle the number of backlogged prescriptions or the line of people waiting for prescriptions and vaccines.2
- The Kansas City-area walkout comes after retail pharmacists have for years complained about staffing levels and the increasing pressure to meet performance metrics.
- “They’re having a harder time staffing the core locations because working conditions are so bad there,” a pharmacist told The Kansas City Star.1 “They (CVS management) think that because our locations have been more successful, we should be reassigned to help fix the core locations.”
- “The workload is so heavy and the amount of staff they allot us is so low that I’m unable to go to the bathroom during my 10-hour shift,” a pharmacist told USA Today.2 “I'm expected to fill all these prescriptions by myself and counsel all these patients by myself and do all the vaccines by myself so that I'm unable to go to the bathroom and I'm unable to keep my patients safe.”
- “We have communicated to corporate, and there has been zero response,” another CVS pharmacist told USA Today.2 “They have not talked to us yet.”
- "As pharmacists, we have a professional obligation through our Oath to consider the welfare of humanity and the relief of suffering as our primary concerns," the American Pharmacists Association said in a statement in response to the Kansas City CVS closures.4 "We further commit to advocating for changes that improve patient care. Pharmacists who find themselves in situations where the welfare of others is in question should always pause, evaluate the situation, and take the steps necessary to ensure safe, optimal patient care."
In Depth Insights
A CVS pharmacist who participated in the walkout told USA Today that the decision to protest came after a store manager was fired for not following corporate policy.2
- The manager who was fired reportedly did not force pharmacists to close their own stores to help other short-staffed CVS locations on the weekends.
- According to KCTV 5 News, pharmacists are staging another walkout on Wednesday, but they are not sure how long it will last or what stores will be impacted.3
For more on this issue, check out these articles.
1. Hudnall D. 12 Kansas City area CVS locations close as pharmacists walk out over working conditions. News Report. The Kansas City Star. September 22, 2023. Accessed September 26, 2023.
2. Le Coz E. CVS pharmacists stage walkout over working conditions, leaving pharmacy counters closed. News report. USA Today. September 22, 2023. Accessed September 26, 2023.
3. Love A. ‘Impossible’, CVS Pharmacists demand more staff to meet demand for Covid vaccines and prescriptions. News Report. KCTV 5 News. September 25, 2023. Accessed September 26, 2023.
4. Statement on Pharmacy Store Closures in Kansas City. News Release. APhA. September 26, 2023. Accessed September 27, 2023. https://pharmacist.com/About/Newsroom/statement-on-pharmacy-store-closures-in-kansas-city