Staffing Challenges Persist for Conn. Pharmacies

Staffing challenges are causing some pharmacies across Connecticut to adjust their schedules and reduce their hours.

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Pharmacies across Connecticut continue to contend with staffing challenges, resulting in reduced hours and longer wait times.

"My mom, with her diabetes, was having trouble getting certain meds," said Teresa Yarnes, of Enfield. “I have seen lines of up to ten cars trying to go through the drive through.”

Frank L. of Norwich said he definitely noticed when his Norwich CVS changed its pharmacy hours. He said, at one point, he had to wait four days for his prescription to be filled.

"I was very stressed," he said.

The Connecticut Pharmacists Association (CPA) confirmed that some pharmacies across the state are continuing to have to adjust their hours because of staffing issues.

“During the pandemic we lost a lot of pharmacists, either from burnout or illness, who basically quit the profession all together," said Dr. Nathan Tinker, CEO of the CPA. "You have a lot of strain on the system already coming into this. At the same time, you have these waves of COVID still passing through.“

According to Tinker, pharmacists also face regulatory challenges in Connecticut that make other states more appealing to work in.

Pharmacists are not the only position in high demand. Pharmacies also need pharmacy technicians and other support staff. According to the Connecticut Department of Labor, there are more than 400 job openings for pharmacy technicians right now.

"If you are at the national chain stores, it is a challenge to keep people and they are offering significant sign-on bonuses for both pharmacy techs and for pharmacists across the nation," Tinker said.

CVS did not respond to NBC Connecticut's email inquiry regarding their staffing challenges. Walgreens said that in communities impacted by staffing shortages, they have adjusted hours of operation. When that happens, they said they will direct customers to other nearby Walgreens locations.

"We continue to aggressively recruit and hire pharmacists and pharmacy technicians," a spokesperson for Walgreens wrote in an email.

Nutmeg Pharmacy, a locally-owned community pharmacy with five locations in Connecticut, reports that their locations have been able to avoid any major staffing challenges.

Recently, they have received an increase in phone calls from people looking to transfer prescriptions after experiencing schedule changes at other pharmacies.

"They were going to the pharmacy that they usually go to and they were noticing that they were closed, so they weren't able to pick up their prescriptions and it is mostly due to staffing issues at other pharmacies," said Cailin Wadja, pharmacy manager at Nutmeg Pharmacy in Taftville. "So we are able to accommodate them."

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