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Pharmacists: Overworked and Understaffed

Covid-19 has made an already tough situation even tougher. Pharmacists at chain stores are now being pushed more than ever to do more with less. “They’re working faster, filling more orders and juggling a wider range of tasks with fewer staff members at a pace that many say is unsustainable and jeopardizes patient safety.” (NBCNews.com)

In the past decade, this had already become a huge issue that needed to be resolved. Now, add Covid-19 testing and vaccinations to the mix, and new concerns are being raised “about what will happen if they aren’t given enough additional support for yet another responsibility.” (NBCNews.com)

Marilyn Jerominski, the pharmacy manager at a 24-hour Walgreens says she began working as a pharmacist 13 years ago. At that time, things were very different. “There were more staff members and more time to counsel patients about their medications.” Now, she says there is so much stress, she is often exhausted and overwhelmed, worried about making a mistake that will put customers’ health on the line.

Jerominski is not alone. Recent research by NBC News on 31 retail pharmacists and technicians reported that a good portion of them are working 12-hour shifts, and are too busy to stop for bathroom breaks, or to eat. Many report crying in their cars after work or “lying awake at night worrying about mistakes they might have made while rushing. They described an industry of health care professionals at the breaking point.”

Jerominski and other pharmacists say they are in dire need of more help.

Many large pharmacy chains, like CVS and Walgreens “give pharmacists a range of metrics to meet and monitors the time they spend on various tasks, from calls to patients to prescriptions filled and vaccinations given per week.” About 10 years ago, when profit margins started to drop for those chains, pharmacists began to be pushed that much more.

South Carolina pharmacists weigh-in on being overworked and understaffed through letters to the SC Board of Pharmacy:

“I had two misfills in three years with the previous staffing and now I make 10-12 per year (that are caught).” (Advisory.com)

“The mistakes I have seen occur in this environment are both frightening and understandable when we are under the gun to perform the impossible. I’ve had a technician mix two strengths of a critical blood pressure medication.” (NYTimes.com)

“We are being asked to do things that we know at a gut level are dangerous. If we won’t or can’t do them, our employers will find someone else who will, and they will likely try to pay them less for the same work.” (NYTimes.com)

“Thank the Lord I have not had any life-threatening misfills, but I have had a number of ‘minor’ misfills mostly due to having to be responsible for so many duties at once and constantly being pulled away from verification to multitask.” (NYTimes.com)

In response to letters, and phone calls from pharmacists regarding inadequate work conditions, the SC Board of Pharmacy wrote a statement to “promote the health and safety of patients, and to ensure compliance with the South Carolina Pharmacy Practice Act relating to operational standards, specifically S.C. Code Ann. § 40-43-86 (B)(4) which relates to adequate staffing of licensed personnel in the pharmacies.” You can find this statement here. (llr.sc.gov)

Protecting Yourself from Pharmacist Errors:

  • Speak with the pharmacist if you are getting a new prescription. Ask about side effects, and make sure the new drug is safe in combination with other medicines you are currently taking.
  • Open the bag to be sure your name is on the prescription bottle, and that the correct medicine name and strength are on the bottle. Also, check for the pill description on the bottle.
  • Open the bottle. Be sure the pills inside look the same as your previous prescriptions of that same drug. If it’s a new medicine, make sure the pills look the same as what’s described on the bottle.
  • Read the instructions on the bottle and on the leaflet you receive with the prescription.
  • If you notice any errors, do not take any of the medication. Report errors to the pharmacist immediately.

(NYTimes.com)

Mistakes can also be reported to state pharmacy boards. For South Carolina patients, that would be the South Carolina Board of Pharmacy.

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. We will 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 fight for 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.