In the last couple of years, Covid has caused the workload in pharmacies to rise dramatically, but staffing levels have actually decreased during this same time period. This combination can lead to deadly consequences of pharmacy malpractice.
Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians alike have been overworked and understaffed due to the Covid pandemic. On top of their regular jobs of filling prescriptions and counseling customers, they have been forced to juggle “administering Covid-19 vaccines and tests, more phone calls and handing out masks.” (NYTimes.com)
Pharmacy customers have had longer wait-times on the phone to get their prescriptions filled. This causes customers to be angry and take it out on pharmacy staff resulting in even more stress for pharmacists and technicians.
All of this has caused pharmacy staff to have to work longer hours, and be much more stressed out in their jobs. Many pharmacists and pharmacy technicians have left their jobs because they just could not deal with it anymore. Of course, this just causes the problem to get that much worse.
“Large retail pharmacy chains have tried to respond, with some reducing store hours, increasing starting wages, offering more breaks and giving out bonuses to retain employees. But customers have felt the impact, with some experiencing disruptions in vaccine appointments, longer lines to pick up prescriptions and frustration over securing masks and at-home virus tests.” (NYTimes.com)
Recently, PBS News Hour interviewed (to hear those, click here) some pharmacists on how they are struggling “to keep up with a spike in demand for their services”:
Ryan Albano (who has been a pharmacist for 17 years) said, “If you had a doctor working on a loved one or a family member performing surgery, would you want the phone ringing in the background while the doctor is providing surgery to your loved one? You want that doctor having questions thrown at them, having the drive-through being rung, having emails pop up at you, having customers waving at you?”
Jennifer Morrow (worked as a pharmacy manager up until December 2021) said, “I felt like I was an octopus pulled in eight different directions. And one of them is having to give vaccines. Now, I’m even concerned that I might give the wrong vaccine at the wrong time.” (PBSNewsHour.com)
“Pharmacies can’t run without technicians, who do the lion’s share of work behind the counter, from counting pills to taking phone calls and ringing patients up.” This job takes a lot of training, but does not require a college degree. Many states do require pharmacy technicians to have a certificate (which they earn after a certain amount of training).
Technicians usually get paid very meager salaries for the job they do. Some pharmacies have recently increased staring salaries for technicians, to hopefully entice more people into the field to help with the shortage. (NBCNews.com)
Heidi Strehl worked in Rite Aid as a pharmacy technician for over 16 years. She said she loved her job and her customers, and always thought she would work in that job until retirement age. In October she “abruptly quit, walking out in the middle of a shift.” She said, “…in recent years the workload and stress had increased to unsustainable levels while staffing and pay failed to keep up.”
Many other technicians have recently done the same: saying they’re having to do too much for too little pay, “increasing the possibility that they will fill prescriptions improperly.” This has caused a major staff shortage, which means the pharmacists are overloaded with more work than they can possibly handle. This has led to huge waits for prescriptions, decreased pharmacy hours “and some prescription errors and vaccination mix-ups – like children receiving an adult Covid-19 vaccine instead of a flu shot – in a business sector in which delays and mistakes can have serious health consequences.” (NBCNews.com)
How to protect yourself and your loved ones from pharmacy errors:
- Check to be sure your name, the correct medication name and correct strength are on the bottle.
- If you have taken the prescription before, look at the pills to be sure they look the same. If they look different, ask the pharmacist to check your prescription to be sure it is correct.
- If this is a new prescription, look up what the medication should look like. There are pill identifiers online you can use for this: https://www.drugs.com/pill_identification.html
- If you have any questions about whether your prescription has been filled correctly, or about how or when to take the medication, do not take the medication until you have talked to the pharmacist.
Mistakes can be reported to state pharmacy boards. For South Carolina patients, that would be the South Carolina Board of Pharmacy.
Prescription monitoring is also available in SC:
THE LAW OFFICES OF DAVID L. HOOD – REPRESENTING PHARMACY MALPRACTICE VICTIMS IN SOUTH CAROLINA
Prescription malpractice can cause serious health problems and even result in death for many innocent patients. However, if the matter is handled expertly, those responsible for the damages can be held accountable. The Law Offices of David L. Hood and his co-counsel have experience in handling pharmacy malpractice cases. With an understanding of the system, they utilize their network of medical experts and pharmacists to figure out the cause of the mistake and obtain (if possible) an expert opinion so a claim can be filed against those at fault.
If you have suffered at the hand of someone else’s negligence and incompetence, let The Law Offices of David L. Hood do whatever it takes to help you and your family get justice. Let us fight until you get the compensation that you deserve.
If you or a loved-one has been a victim of pharmacy malpractice in South Carolina, contact us for a free initial consultation. If you choose us to handle your claim, we will work with you on a contingent-fee basis, meaning, you won’t owe us a fee unless we get a recovery for you! You can call us now at (843) 491-6025 or contact us at any of our offices in South Carolina here.
For more information: https://hoodlawoffices.com/blog/pharmacists-overworked-and-understaffed/