Published: Nov 09, 2023 03:01 PM
Big name pharmacies have a problem. Staff members of Walgreens locations across the country walked off the job this week because of what they called “poor working conditions.” Last week it was CVS Pharmacy, where pharmacists reportedly frustrated with overwhelming workloads did not show up for work in at least a dozen Kansas City-area locations.
The Wall Street Journal this week reported CVS and Walgreens had their customer satisfaction rate drop by nearly 25 percent in just two years. Part of the reason for that drop is pharmacies are getting prescriptions wrong, which means people might not get the life-saving medication they need.
Now the companies say they are trying to make amends. Walgreens is boosting its recruiting efforts, while CVS is looking at sending phone calls straight to voicemail so that pharmacists aren’t bogged down with calls.
We know of at least one colleague who was on voicemail with the local CVS pharmacy for over seven minutes before her call was answered last week. She was calling to check on a refill that had been ordered online on October 25. By November 1, with the prescription in apparent online limbo, she called the pharmacy. Of the 9 minute, 47 second call, less than one minute was actually spent speaking with a pharmacist, who apologized for the delay. “We’re about a week behind on prescriptions here,” the pharmacist told our associate before offering to expedite the refill. Within an hour the prescription was ready.
When our coworker went to pick up the script on Friday afternoon, she found the line for the pharmacy inside the Queen Street store eight people deep. Changing her approach, she went out to her vehicle and joined the drive-thru line. At that time there were six vehicles in front of her. When it took nearly ten minutes for the vehicle at the window to finish its order, our colleague began the process of prepaying for her script through the CVS app. Thirty minutes later she finally reached the window, was handed her prescription, and tried to catch up on what she had planned to be doing.
This was all done in addition to making sure she visited the store when the pharmacy was open. CVS is among the pharmacy chains that have instituted prescheduled, uninterrupted 30-minute lunch breaks for its pharmacy staff. That is not at all convenient for customers trying to do errands in the middle of their days.
Founded in Lowell, Mass., in 1963 as Consumer Value Stores, it feels like CVS Health — and other large pharmacy chains — has lost its vision. Long lines and voicemail responses are not consumer focused. The value is no longer on the consumer. Ask any of the people who have spent time standing or sitting in line recently.
According to proxy statements filed for the 2022 fiscal year, the president and CEO of CVS Health Corp last year received $21,317,055 in total compensation. Of that total, more than $1.5 million was her base salary. Nearly $3 million was received as a bonus. She additionally received a combined $16.8 million in stock options, stock, and other types of compensation.
Meanwhile the company’s customers are being sent to voicemail when they call for help, and they’re being left to wait in lines that don’t move. CVS Health continues to cut jobs at the corporate level, including just over 300 within Connecticut already this year. Another 30 cuts are expected in the state before the end of 2023. Those are just the in-state corporate cuts. Layoffs are happening across the country, and pharmacists are now juggling more orders than ever while certainly entertaining the idea that job cuts will trickle down to their level.
That is not the direction staff or customers want to see a pharmacy of any size moving toward.
Cutting already overworked staff and sending customers to voicemail? That doesn’t sound like a healthy choice to us.