Crisis (not) averted – drug issues | CarTailz

It’s too late for retail pharmacies to engage in the preventative maintenance that would have spared them the worst of the Great Retirement.

In 1981, my new bride and I went to the car dealership looking for our first big purchase. We bought the cheapest car on the market: a beige Datsun 210 for the sum of $4400. Since that monumental event I’ve bought a new vehicle about every 10 years – mostly minivans when we had a big family.

The last vehicle I bought was a 2012 Nissan Frontier pickup. It has a lot of rust in the bed and a significant dent in the front where I hit a deer on my way home from work last year. I view my vehicles with the same affection I would a wheelbarrow – a tool to get a job done. My car takes me to and from work and that’s all I need. But I meticulously take care of the working parts of the vehicle; I have the oil changed on time to keep my vehicles running well.

Well worth the money I spent on preventative maintenance. I’m a cheapskate, but I’m happy to spend the money on inspections, tires and oil changes. Spending $100 every few months keeps me from spending thousands on major repairs or, worse, replacing the vehicle.

I wish our pharmacy chains would apply this wisdom to the running of their stores. The chains have cut back on staff for so many years that there have been major breakdowns. Some of the Big 4 stores cannot open at weekends due to staffing issues. College towns with pharmacy schools were once the holy grail of work places for community pharmacists. At my first job, one of the pharmacists spent his time in rural Pennsylvania to get enough seniority for a job in Pittsburgh. There are also staff shortages and short-time work in the university towns.

My brothers and sisters in the community pharmacy have reached their limits. Ridiculous metrics, the administration of vaccinations and COVID-19, along with reduced staff and lower wages, have left community pharmacists looking for a new nail to hang their licenses on. For some pharmacists, the “Big Resignation” would be better described as a “Big Restructuring”. So many pharmacists have been given the opportunity to work from home for pharmacy benefits managers or insurance companies that they have chosen to get away from the bank and the stress and excitement of the retail environment. I doubt we’ll ever see them come back.

With a little preventative maintenance, district and regional leaders could have averted this crisis. Providing adequate technology, ensuring staff breaks, eliminating metrics and most importantly increasing the number of pharmacy technicians available to assist with the workload would have prevented this disaster. Because the Big 4 chains have neglected preventative maintenance, a major failure occurs—much like not changing the oil or rotating the tires on my beloved pickup truck.

The bad news gets worse: Pharmacy school enrollments are down — down a lot. Due to the shift to virtual classrooms, recent graduates are struggling to pass the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination. Even recent grads, who were easy to pick with big salary offers, are declining in retail. Younger pharmacists with families leave the long hours at the bank. Ironically, the pharmacy chains that were intoxicated by the “pharmacist glut” five years ago are now howling the blues.

One of these retail giants is offering a $75,000 signing bonus at some locations. I asked some of my fellow pharmacists if they would prefer the bonus money or have a guarantee of 2 pharmacy technicians for $18 an hour. All but one said they preferred the technicians and had a fulfilling job in patient care. This response is the result of the chains’ neglect of “preventive maintenance” that would have prevented this dire situation.

The chains have no one to blame but themselves. They had great pharmacists who weathered the COVID-19 crisis with minimal (if any) increases in staff. Chain executives need to raise salaries, significantly increase technician hours, incentivize pharmacists’ efforts, shorten store hours, and develop a caring attitude—much like that shown in their television commercials.

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