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Indiana pharmacy industry looking to add to workforce

Posted at 10:09 PM, Dec 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-14 22:09:54-05

CARMEL — At pharmacies across Central Indiana, longer wait times and changed hours of operation are realities for many. The Indiana Pharmacists Association said it is in part due to staffing issues.

“That’s the biggest issue I think I hear: I’m overworked and I’m afraid I’m going to hurt somebody,” Trevor Thaine said. He is the President of the Independent Pharmacy Academy within the Indiana Pharmacists Association.

Carmel Prescription Shop opened three years ago. Business is steady, but owner Saumiin Calcuttawala said over the last two years “oh [it's] just night and day, especially with the vaccination piece.”

Vaccines, testing, filling prescriptions, helping with insurance issues and discussing health matters are just some of the things a pharmacist juggles daily. Add in a pandemic — and those responsibilities only deepen.

“We always feel like we’re down at least one person, maybe two,” Calcuttawala said.

From delivery drivers to pharmacy technicians, the Carmel independent pharmacy said it needs help and it is hiring.

IPA said across the board, there are staffing issues in the industry. Retail pharmacies are experiencing the hardest time recruiting workers. Thaine and IPA Executive Vice President Darren Covington said staffing was a problem pre-covid.

Now, burnout, competitive pay and added responsibilities pushed staffing over the edge, leading to shorter operational hours, long wait times and other issues for consumers.

Pharmacists, techs and others ask the community to practice patience and give these frontline workers grace.

“Everybody is trying hard, I know out there, but ultimately people seek service and we hope to give it,” Calcuttawala said.

IPA said there is not a quick fix for this. Covington said several things including competitive pay, practicing “at the top of the license” and empowering technicians with more responsibilities are starting points.

While pharmacies, both independent and chain, are trying to hire, the Association asks consumers to practice patience and understanding.

A Walgreens spokesperson sent this statement in an email on the matter:

“Over the last week, we have seen an elevated demand for vaccinations and testing. Our teams are working to ensure our customers are being cared for to support this demand. We have adjusted pharmacy hours in a limited number of stores to accommodate current staffing needs, while also working to ensure minimal disruption to our customers. Our team members work with patients to reschedule any impacted vaccination appointments at these stores as quickly as possible. Currently, the vast majority of our stores are operating with their normal pharmacy hours to meet customer demand for vaccines and other pharmacy services.

Our pharmacists – and all healthcare workers today – have been on the frontlines of the pandemic since March of 2020, working under challenging conditions to help meet urgent and continually evolving needs of patients in thousands of communities nationwide.”

CVS sent this statement in an email to an WRTV inquiry:

“Our pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and nurses have been on the frontlines of the pandemic response, from administering COVID-19 tests to providing life-saving vaccinations.  During the heart of the pandemic, we hired 10,000 pharmacy technicians to support COVID-19 activities such as testing and vaccinations. 

Our pharmacy teams remain flexible in meeting patients’ needs in a dynamic environment that is part of a nationwide workforce shortage affecting nearly every industry and company.”

A CVS Health spokesperson added on hiring:

“Through our recent nationwide hiring effort , we hired 23,000 new retail employees, including pharmacy technicians, and are in the process of onboarding another 20,000 candidates.  Also, in August we announced  a significant investment in our employees by raising our minimum hourly wage to $15 an hour, effective July 2022."

Open positions at CVS are listed here.