Monday, August 5, 2013

Thoughts about the Flupocalypse of 2013

What would happen if there was a serious pandemic or natural disaster and people rushing to the pharmacy to get their medications? Would my Goofmart Pharmacy be able to ramp up staffing to meeting these needs? The answer is no, not with complete patient safety as the number one priority.

We're getting close to that time of year... flu shot season. And I remember last year's complete fiasco, especially January. In case you don't remember, there was a surge of flu in early January, prompting every media outlet to tell people to go get a flu shot. And apparently most of them came to my location. Or at least it felt that way.

In any healthcare business, patient safety is paramount and trumps all other issues entirely. In the course of running any business, proper management dictates normal planning PLUS additional contingency plans in case of emergencies. Running a pharmacy without proper staffing in a healthcare setting dangerously puts patient safety at risk. No matter what the situation or emergency, a contingency plan is warranted and additional help should be available on call to fill in the gaps as necessary. The influenza immunization rush of January, 2013, should be a clear signal to management that better planning is required for any future onslaught of business.

There are many people unemployed. There are qualified people who WANT to be Goofmart technicians. And yet these people are not being hired! The decision to under staff the pharmacies is a management decision that clearly does not consider the importance of patient safety or a rush of business. Our competitors staff their pharmacies with a much higher pharmacist/tech ratio. Even during later hours and weekends, our competitors ALL have more than adequate technician help. The decision to properly staff the pharmacies at our competitors makes Goofmart appear to our customers that we're more concerned about profit and less concerned about medication accuracy and patient safety. This is absolutely inexcusable, and quite frankly, embarrassing.

At my pharmacy in Janurary, 2013, staffing needs were seriously overlooked. As a result, inadequate staffing put our patients' safety as risk, Moreover, the overload that ensued not only made the pharmacy staff look foolish, it seriously compromised patient safety. For example, the increased flu shots increased our script count that week 33%. People were lined up ten deep into the aisles at times waiting for an immunization. Regular patients and customers became disillusioned and angry because the normal wait times they have come to expect was just not possible. 

Other prescriptions were rushed through the system just to keep up. Mind you, most pharmacy errors occur when pharmacists are rushed. Attempts were made to arrange and schedule people during the pharmacist overlap hours, and this helped slightly, but the majority of people wanted their flu shot NOW, not during pharmacist overlap time. Our attempts to keep up with demand were not met. Some patients were not happy with the situation and rightly so. If we had normal technician coverage (like our competitors) and additional help to call in as needed, the immunization rush would have been much easier on everyone.

I have no doubt those in Goofmart's management circles will say that “everything is being done" to ensure patient safety in regard to technician staffing. I would really like to believe that. I would. BUT when I see myself, my pharmacy partner, and other Goofmart pharmacists all around the state constantly being overrun without proper help, it is hard to believe. One slow period and management quickly cuts the tech hours, but a sudden ramp up in business met with “It is what it is, deal with it.” When I see thousands upon thousands of dollars spent on a “Goodness” room, the additional technician time and technician hours spent to keep it clean, and then when the “Goodness” room fails to provide a single penny of profit to the company, I MUST question the management allocation of these resources.

My Goofmart Pharmacy is a company of serious contradictions and bipolar behavior. Why is there no money for proper tech coverage, but there IS money to play to clean a room that's not even used? Why is there no money for tech hours, but there IS money to pay a guy to come around and check a logbook to see if the “Goodness” room has been cleaned? Why is there no money for proper tech coverage, but there IS money to build an additional counseling room? Countless sums of money spent for NOTHING! Why was the pharmacists' retirement funding “temporarily” chopped in half but there's money to spend on these “Goodness” rooms that TO DATE have NOT BEEN USED? This type of discombobulated behavior smacks of a company desperately in trouble, grasping for straws which do not exist, run by leaders which lack the testicular fortitude to stand up and say “Something is not right!” We're expected to piss away time doing “Quake and Zap” then spend additional time going back over the list to fix the inventory after “Quake and Zap” screws it up! Tell me, what sense does that make? Now the company has money to build extra little immunization/counseling rooms but there's STILL no money for proper tech coverage? THIS IS EPIC WTF!

A lot of pharmacists and technicians are out here and there and everywhere due to illness. In the course of PROPER managerial planning, BACKUP floater technicians and pharmacists would NORMALLY be in place for just such an event. Having a pool of floaters that can step in and help when needed is NORMAL. Relying on your pharmacy partner to cover for you all the time is ridiculous. We have LIVES outside of Goofmart. Some of us have children, some of us have elderly parents to care for. YOU CAN NOT JUST EXPECT ONE PHARMACIST TO STEP IN AND WORK 80 HOURS A WEEK!

Would you drive down the road at 90mph without your seat belt on? No, you need that backup to protect you and save your life! But Goofmart expects you to drive without a seat belt all the time! There is limited help, way too few floaters, to help out when things go bad. Placing the responsibility and burden of work solely on the backs of pharmacists is not only inappropriate; it once again conflicts with the number one priority: PATIENT SAFETY! Whatever excuse is postulated as to why there is no reserve help, it fails to justify the current situation. It is, quite frankly, inexcusable. With the lack of planning for contingencies and by not having backup floaters, there are many of us who believe Goofmart must be in serious financial trouble. I keep trying to tell myself that there must be something I'm overlooking here... that these contradictions are just my imagination, but I keep coming back to the same conclusion: Goofmart management doesn't have a freaking clue what's really going on. Who in their right mind would approve “Quake and Zap”? Apparently the same person who's saying let's have techs clean empty rooms instead of helping in the pharmacy.

The influenza scare was incredibly stressful. Hopefully during the onslaught of business and the lack of proper staffing, no mistakes were made in the process. Hopefully people who saw how foolish we looked will forgive and forget and give Goofmart Pharmacy another try. BUT, for the future, I also hope that someone steps up and challenges upper management on their irrational (and inevitably deadly) decision to under staff our pharmacies. Next time we may not be so lucky. I hope and pray no one gets hurt. Mark my words; someone WILL get hurt if we don't get proper technician help in the pharmacies.

And when that happens, I will step forward and make it known to the media and Board of Pharmacy that we sounded the cry but our cries were left unanswered. I will not be held hostage by a company unwilling to consider the most important thing to all of us: Patient Safety!


Anonymous said...

I'm so relieved to see that I'm not the only one concerned about it. Thank you, you're the voice of pharmacy PRACTICE, not a crooks in upper management who never filled a single prescription

Pharmacy Gal said...

Management seems to only pay lip-service to patient safety these days. I am picking up a strong undercurrent of dissatisfaction with the current state of the profession. Pharmacists are getting fed-up. Pretty soon more and more pharmacists are going to be willing to stand up for patient care and refuse to be held hostage by their employers.

bcmigal said...

wow, what got you started? we are starting flu shots in about a week. The CDC had a great podcast about the upcoming season. Free and worth one credit of CE. Did the company promote it.? No..... instead we had a 2 hr meeting about more metrics and reports and making more binders.
BTW, your Sunday funnies were the best yet! Hope you don't mind if I pass them on!

Anonymous said...

bcmigal: "a 2 hr meeting about more metrics and reports and making more binders"

LOL! both funny and sad at the same time.

DocGooden said...

The flu shot madness that took place last jan/feb was awful. Of course this took place after hour tech hours were cut almost 15%. Trying to do shot after shot with only 1 tech on the whole keep up with waiters doctor calls, addressing the escripts and voicemails within 15 minutes was impossible. I remember one day being so bad I just wanted to sit and the bays and cry. I just can't believe management didn't let stores increase tech hours temporarily during this time.

Anonymous said...

I think we work for the same place !

Unknown said...

I have been out of the crazy world of retail/grocer for nearly 4 months now and am AMAZED that I can put in a good day's work without running on adrenaline all day. But I'm doubly glad that I will be giving ZERO flu shots this year

Anonymous said...

In my store we have no RPH overlap, ever. We get tech overlap Mon from 12-6, Tue 12-4, Thu 11-3, Fri 1-3 and that's it. Otherwise it's one tech, and the RPH is alone one hr in am and one in pm. Sundays they're alone 3 hrs in am. No extra hrs during flu season. it's absurd.