ATLANTA — CVS pharmacies across the country will begin closing for lunch breaks beginning Monday, as many drug stores deal with a shortage of pharmacists and staff.
An email from a CVS spokesperson didn’t mention the shortage when announcing stores would close briefly between 1:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. to make sure “pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are at their best, which means supporting their schedules accordingly.”
According to the most recent numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Georgia saw a 5% drop in the number of pharmacists between 2019 and 2020. The Bureau is projecting a 2% decline nationwide over the next 10 years.
11Alive viewer Rhonda Nelson said recent trips to her neighborhood pharmacy drive-thru have been frustrating.
“There was two cars in front of me and it took 20 minutes before they got to me,” said Nelson. “It’s absolutely ridiculous.”
Dr. Jonathan Marquess of the Georgia Pharmacy Association owns a pharmacy of his own. He said the pandemic has added stress to an already difficult situation.
“Most pharmacies I've talked to are one to two positions behind,” said Marquess. “They've given vaccinations, they've done COVID testing. Now they're doing the COVID oral antivirals.”
Marquess said he’s had employees take early retirement, and has talked to others who don’t like the risk of working in healthcare during a pandemic.
“Even though they were vaccinated, they felt it was too much risk,” said Marquess. “So they said 'I'm either going to decrease my hours or not work until maybe the pandemic is totally gone.'”
Many pharmacies have been left short staffed because of pharmacy technicians who’ve left the industry. They help fill prescriptions while making less pay than pharmacists.
In light of that, Walgreens and CVS recently announced they’re increasing the pay of all their hourly employees.