Walgreens’ Pharmacy Problems

Walgreens has 9,000 locations in the United States, and, this week, in something like 200 of them, pharmacists are walking off the job, citing stress, understaffing, changing schedules at the last moment, and inadequate training for pharmacy staff.

This couldn’t come at a worse moment for Walgreens, whose stock value has roughly dropped fifty percent over the last year, and whose earnings aren’t improving significantly., and whose CEO departed recently. The company blames some of the problem on the fallout from fewer Covid vaccinations and says that the walkouts are limited to a few stores.

But, from what little I’ve seen, the problems are far worse than the company admits, and affect more than just a few locations.

We have a single Walgreens here in Cedar City, and it’s also where my wife and I get vaccinations, as a great many people do, because there aren’t that many options in Cedar City. It’s also not one of the stores cited as having walkouts.

Two years ago, I could call the store and get an appointment for a vaccination. Last year, Walgreens implemented a mandatory national vaccination schedule. Even if the pharmacy was empty, you had to go online to get an appointment.

This year I scheduled an appointment for Covid and flu vaccines. When I arrived, I was told that the Covid vaccine hadn’t arrived and that the store hadn’t been told the vaccine would be delayed in enough time to contact people – if, indeed, they’d had enough staff to do so, which they didn’t. Now… the staff was pleasant, and apologetic. And I got the flu vaccine quickly, with little fuss … and waited to reschedule the Covid shot. I also noted that the pharmacy staff never stopped moving, except to wait on people or answer the telephone.

When my wife went to get her vaccination, after the Covid vaccine arrived, despite the advance registration, the waiting time was forty-five minutes because the pharmacy didn’t have enough staff.

I’ve thought back, and over the past three years, that Walgreens appears to have changed almost all the pharmacy staff at least three times. I’ve had a different pharmacist or pharmacy tech give me a shot each time, and yet there are never more than five or six people working in the pharmacy.

So… I’m inclined to believe the pharmacists who attribute the problem to management, and I also suspect that management needs to pay more attention to operations than to the stock price.

6 thoughts on “Walgreens’ Pharmacy Problems”

  1. KevinJ says:

    “[M]anagement needs to pay more attention to operations than to the stock price.”

    I think you’ve hit on something with universal application.

  2. Lourain says:

    I have patronized the pharmacy at one of the very large chains for 20 years. Staffing makes a huge difference in service. There are several staff members, who when they wait on me, only ask for my birth date, because they have been there so long. I did a “walk in” for my vaccinations last week. The only wait time on my vaccinations was because they had to thaw a vial of vaccine (no, you can’t put them in the microwave).
    Walgreens has lost customers because of poor staffing. Penny wise, but pound foolish.

  3. KTL says:

    I signed up for vaccinations for my wife and I last week. The app I was using only showed the local Walgreens, so that’s where I scheduled our visit. Well….Like LEM, we showed up and there was a sign on the door indicating the pharmacy was closed for the day. Huh. When I asked a stafferstocking shelves, she indicated they did not have a pharmacist for the day and everyone would be called for rescheduling. A number of days later and nop calls. I decided that the communication was wrong, went back on the Walgreens internet site, cancelled the old visit and rescheduled again. Only this time there was no covid vaccine, only the flu. So we showed up yesterday for the shot and saw a line at the Pharmacy with the pharmacy security door pulled down. Huh. There was a sign outside that indicated the pharmacy drive thru was closed. There was another sign inside saying the pharmacy wasn’t going to open until noon (it was 10:05AM). No one in the pharmacy came out to the customers to clarify the situation for anyone. A young man in the line went to the front of the store and confirmed that the pharmacy wasn’t going to open until noon.

    I walked out with my spouse, promptly cancelled the Walgreens visits for the day and went online and scheduled a visit for today at the Rite-Aid across the street. They had both the covid vaccine we wanted and the flu vaccine in stock. I expect that visit to go swimmingly. If not, I’ll let all know.

    Walgreens? I guess it’s a nice looking store and maybe visit for a candy bar if necessary.

  4. Alison Hamway says:

    Unfortunately our Walgreens suffered enormously during the pandemic. The automated prescription reordering system broke down, and they did not answer the phone to take refill prescription orders. They closed frequently due to lack of staff. I ended up switching to another pharmacy. A number of in my city pharmacies in our city have shuttered their doors, so it is not just Walgreens that suffers from lack of staff.

  5. Tom says:

    Staff, management, training and quality?

    The U.S. Chamber of Commerce explains staff shortage this way: https://www.uschamber.com/workforce/understanding-americas-labor-shortage-the-most-impacted-industries

    The COVID-19 pandemic caused a major disruption in America’s labor force—something many have referred to as The Great Resignation. In 2022, more than 50 million workers quit their jobs, many of whom were in search of an improved work-life balance and flexibility, increased compensation, and a strong company culture. That follows the 47.8 million who quit jobs in 2021. But a closer look at what has happened to the labor force can be better described as ‘The Great Reshuffle’ because hiring rates have outpaced quit rates since November of 2020. So, many workers are quitting their jobs—but many are getting re-hired elsewhere….

    I have noticed the lowering of quality in the staff in various occupations. It seems that that is in part because I live in the country rather than a city. But visiting my children there is a noticeable ‘sloppiness’ in city workers as well. I understand that it takes time for people to get to know their jobs.

    Perhaps it is not ‘the staff’ but it is the lack of appropriate training systems and directives in the businesses? This I do not understand because it suggests that our quality workers have either left the country or that most have retired (on what?) or that the quality problem is from the top down! The Department of Labor and the Department of Commerce do not address this issue so perhaps it is my misperception.

  6. Wine Guy says:

    Ask anyone who lives in a 1 pharmacy town if they can get prescriptions on the weekend. I’d wager not, even if there is a CVS, Rite-Aid, Walgreens, or Wal-Mart pharmacy there. Towns under 10k residents have a very hard time keeping pharmacy staff. (as an aside, it’s the same for nursing and medical and ancillary staff. If you don’t have pharmacy, radiology, or lab techs, there’s no point in having the rest of us either.)

    Heaven forbid that a person need something a little out of the ordinary, then it’ll need special ordering and delivery that takes an additional day or two.

    Part of the problem is insurance companies and government entities don’t want to pay fairly. If you want an easy and digestible way to see how the insurance companies do things, watch Dr. Glaucomflecken’s youtube shorts and tik toks. I wish they weren’t true. The situation is actually worse than he presents.

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