ST. LOUIS – There are a multitude of reasons for the reduction in hours at your local pharmacy.
“After the pandemic, pharmacists like other healthcare professionals retired,” said Nicole Gattas, director of experiential education and professor of pharmacy practice at the St. Louis College of Pharmacy at the University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy. “We stepped up to the plate during the pandemic, immunizing or providing medications. So many pharmacists did decide to leave community practice and go to other types of pharmacy. Or maybe go and retire.”
FOX 2 reached out to Walgreens for a comment about the issue, and a spokesperson released the following statement:
“We have hired hundreds of pharmacists and returned hundreds of stores to normal operating hours over the past few months. Staffing challenges have impacted retailers, healthcare entities, and countless other industries. We continue to proactively address staffing shortages through additional measures such as providing competitive compensation, reducing workload, and taking other steps to enhance our working environments.”
However, CVS released a statement saying:
“In support of our overall retail strategy, we’ve changed our pharmacy hours of operation in about two-thirds of our stores. These changes are part of the regular course of business and are being made to better support our pharmacy teams while optimizing productivity—both of which are critical to our long-term success. Our hours of operation changes are not due to staffing concerns.”
Gattas said the rush hours at pharmacies usually happen during the day.
“The busiest times in the pharmacy happen before 7 p.m. While it sounds like they’re not staying open as many hours,” she said. “Really, many pharmacies die down and are a little bit slower in the evening hours. I think hopefully all patients will be able to access the services they need.”
A spokesperson from the SIUE School of Pharmacy chimed in on the issue.
We are hearing about significant challenges in filling open pharmacist and pharmacy technician positions. This presents a need and an opportunity for pharmacy professionals to offer care for patients who might otherwise go without.
Gattas said it’s not for a lack of future pharmacy students. She said a six-year program to become a pharmacist can wind up with someone making $120,000 a year, right out of school.
“If you are someone that wants to make a difference in patients’ lives, pharmacy is a good profession to think about,” she said. “We need people who are good communicators, collaborate with other professionals and doctors and nurses to help keep patients safe. Pharmacists in the community, they are saving lives every day.”