Kokomo has its share of fine drugstores; Marylu and I usually frequent Walgreens because it’s convenient. But there are other attachments. When I was a boy in the Chicago area, I remember accompanying my father to Walgreens as he tested tubes (in his testing machine) in an attempt to repair our television. He succeeded. More importantly, I have a romantic association: Marylu was working as a waitress at Walgreens when we started dating!
You see, some Walgreens pharmacies were also home to a restaurant! No, not a counter or just a few booths! For comparison, the restaurant was probably the size of Martino’s, although it was set up as a large dining room. Shortly after we started dating, Walgreens spun off its restaurant businesses that reopened in strip malls or stand-alone buildings. This new franchise was called “Wags”. However, Wags survived for only a few years.
When we came to Kokomo, we used to use Hook’s Pharmacy; it eventually became Revco and Revco became CVS. In my opinion, CVS and Walgreens are excellent chains. Independent pharmacies (like Herbst, for example) also have a lot to offer and provide unique services not available elsewhere. When the (now defunct) downtown Walgreens opened, we lived less than a block away, so we started doing business there.
Whatever the name of the company, many pharmacies struggle to keep their staff. According to goodrx.com, this shortage is attributed to several factors: “Several drugstore chains have begun offering large sign-on bonuses to pharmacists, citing difficulties finding pharmacists to staff their stores. While this would normally indicate a shortage of qualified staff, it may actually be due to pharmacist burnout amid heightened COVID pressure, grueling working conditions, and billing and reimbursement challenges.
“Many retail pharmacists have moved on to other roles in independent community pharmacies and safety net clinics, hospitals, industries and non-traditional settings.”
Chains like CVS and Walgreens now close their pharmacies (often from 1:30 to 2 pm) to give their overworked staff time for lunch. This is just one of many efforts to help retain pharmacists and reduce burnout.
Sometimes corporations send pharmacists from other places to run their dispensaries; Sometimes pharmacies are closed for part of the day because they can’t conjure up a pharmacist for that time.
Let’s consider some stresses pharmacists face to better understand this issue.
If you’ve ever had to argue your drug case with your insurance company, you can imagine all the hoops pharmacists have to go through. This includes navigating through a million options on automated menus (which could be checked in for quality control) and being told to “listen carefully, because our menu has changed” (whose menu hasn’t? ?). Wouldn’t it be nice to get to the point right away? They have to tell us to call 911 in case of an emergency, tell us about COIVD protocols, etc. As I told my dentist, “I know the procedure.”
On the other hand, if it weren’t for cost containment, we’d be paying even more for insurance. It’s a Catch 22.
But back to the pharmacists. In the past, if you wanted to get a flu shot, you had to visit your doctor or the health department. But eventually, pharmacies began offering the service: “The first organized immunization training for a group of 50 pharmacists was held in Seattle, Washington, in late 1994. In 1996, the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) established your pharmacy-based immunization delivery program. , which the CDC endorsed.”
Add to that the shingle vaccinations and the many COVID vaccines, and you can see that more is expected of today’s pharmacists. We expect more from modern pharmacists than just filling prescriptions.
So be patient with your pharmacy. Closings and delays are not unique to your pharmacy, nor are they signs of incompetent management. Pharmacists must work very carefully; their mistakes could cost lives. Your responsibilities are great.
In light of this, I suggest the following advice when heading to the pharmacy: be prepared to wait, avoid complaining, refill your prescriptions early, and don’t forget to say thank you! Help prevent pharmacist burnout, or we’ll wait even longer.
ed vasicek is a retired pastor and longtime Kokomo resident who has been writing for the Tribune since 1999.