PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It is being called "Pharmageddon."
In September and October, employees at national pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens have taken turns walking off the job for anywhere from one to two days, and several walkouts nationally are scheduled for this week.
Pharmacists say it is to raise awareness about understaffing and improve working conditions.
While this hasn't been an issue in and around Pittsburgh, Lucas Berenbrock, an associate professor of pharmacy and therapeutics at the University of Pittsburgh, says that pharmacists' concerns are real.
"The first thing that pharmacists are, are clinicians, health care providers," said Berenbrock. "We consider ourselves to be the medication experts. And so everything that we do is about getting the right medications to the right patient, at the right dose, at the right time. And that all is about patient safety."
Berenbrock also said that pharmacists are the last people a patient sees before taking medication, so having proper staffing and compensation for the many jobs that pharmacists are required to do on a day-to-day basis is key.
Both CVS and Walgreens responded to KDKA-TV's inquiries on this issue, with CVS saying that it is not experiencing any unusual activity regarding things like pharmacy closures or walkouts. It said in a statement:
"In response to recent feedback from our pharmacy teams, we're making targeted investments to address their key concerns, including enabling teams to schedule additional support as needed, enhancing pharmacist and technician recruitments and hiring, and strengthening pharmacy technician training."
Walgreens said that three pharmacies closed Monday morning due to workforce disruptions. It also went on to say:
"Our leaders are in our pharmacies regularly, listening to concerns and frustrations and responding to feedback. We have taken steps over the last two years to improve pharmacists' experience, advance the profession and enable them to provide the high value care they were trained to do."
Still, people like Berenbrock said that the field is at an inflection point.
"Pharmacies are really a pivotal piece of our health care system," said Berenbrock. "So, we have to we have to find a way to make more bright young minds choose pharmacy as a career, and we need to make sure that community pharmacies can stay open and they can staff so that the patient always comes first with the patient safety."
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