DENVER — Pharmacy wait times are increasing across the Denver metro, and staffing shortages are to blame.
Pharmacy store chains, CVS and Walgreens confirmed in statements to Denver7 that some of their stores were operating with fewer staff members than usual.
On Friday, long drive-thru lines were spotted at CVS and Walgreens stores just outside of Denver and in Littleton. Some stores had signs advertising job openings, others had signage notifying customers that staffing shortages meant a halt to walk-in vaccinations.
"I've waited for days to get to this [drive-thru] line, and a line has not gone down," said John Johnson as he waited to pick up a prescription in Littleton.
Some pharmacy employees spoke with Denver7 on the condition of anonymity and shared that COVID-19 testing was also contributing to drive-thru backups.
Since the start of the pandemic, both CVS and Walgreens have increased contactless, drive-thru testing at stores across the country.
Both companies provided the below statements.
Throughout the pandemic, our employees have continued to serve as a critical resource for health care services, prescriptions, vaccinations, COVID-19 testing and other products and supplies in communities across the country, at a time when they’re needed most. As our employees continue to be there for our customers, we’re adding to our talent pool to provide them with even greater support.
Since initiating a national hiring effort, we have hired more than 23,000 new retail employees, including pharmacists, technicians and front-store associates, and have extended offers or have begun the onboarding process for another 20,000 candidates.
We recognize the tight retail labor market which may result in minor staffing issues and minimal service disruption in pockets of the country. However, our ability to deploy teams to support stores that are understaffed, decisions about hours and workflow process, wage increases, technology enhancements and other operational factors are made to ensure we have appropriate resources in place at each pharmacy.
At the same time, our digital scheduler at CVS.com or through the CVS App has been widely adopted by customers seeking to make an appointment for a flu shot, COVID-19 vaccine or COVID-19 test. Throughout the pandemic, in which we have administered more than 32 million COVID-19 tests and 34 million vaccines, we have continued to recommend advanced scheduling, including same-day appointments as soon as one hour from booking, to ensure that both appointments and the specific product or service the customer is seeking are available for the pharmacy location and time of their choice. If it turns out there isn’t an appointment available, the CVS Pharmacy staff can help assist the patient in finding an available appointment, at another local pharmacy or another day, depending on availability. That is one of the advantages of having hundreds of locations across each state.
Walgreens continuously reviews staffing levels, as we have throughout the pandemic. In communities where staffing shortages have impacted our stores, we have adjusted continuity plans with the goal of creating minimal disruption to our customers and patients.
In instances such as this, where a local Walgreens store may have temporarily adjusted hours or disruption, our store team will direct customers, as appropriate, to the nearest Walgreens for their prescription needs, care and support, to help ensure continuity for our patients. On the occasion a store has a temporarily adjusted hours, it is reflected on the store locator, which is updated throughout the day at Walgreens.com/FindaStore and on the Walgreens mobile app. Customers who have questions about their medications can also talk to a Walgreens pharmacist using the Pharmacist Video Chat feature available 24/7 on Walgreens mobile app and website.
We are grateful to our trusted team members who have shown exceptional dedication throughout the pandemic. In the pharmacy, they have fulfilled even greater responsibility, whether its administering life-saving vaccines, or helping patients keep up with prescriptions and health screenings.
We are recruiting team members for pharmacy and retail positions nationwide to support demand for COVID-19 vaccinations, testing, as well as routine vaccinations such as flu shots. To support this recruitment effort, we have launched several initiatives, including a sign-on bonus of $1,250.00 for full-or-part-time pharmacy technicians hired now through the end of October.
To further invest in our team members, we’re providing new incentives and recently announced an increase of the starting hourly wage to $15.00 an hour. In September, we gave a one-time bonus of $1,250.00 to full-time pharmacists and a $1,000.00 one-time bonus to part-time pharmacists. Pharmacy technicians who are certified or become certified to administer flu and COVID-19 vaccines will receive a $1,000.00 reward throughout a six-month retention period.
Additionally, newly created roles, like the Pharmacy Operations Manager, drive improved efficiencies and enable greater pharmacy engagement and care, improved inventory management and an enhanced and differentiated customer experience, while expanding our pipeline of future store leaders. The Pharmacy Operations leader manages our pharmacy technicians and oversees workflow and non-clinical tasks. This new role allows our pharmacists to focus on patient outcomes and provide even greater patient engagement.