My understanding is that there is still a satisfying ratio of independents to chains in Oregon
Thank you, Steve. Comments anyone. These were proposed at the Oregon BOP meeting. See article below for how it turned out.
Updated 4/11/12REVISED PROPOSED RULES FOR RECONSIDERATION(D) Verification of the accuracy of the prescription; and(E) All other duties of a pharmacist as specified in Division 19 of thischapter of rules.(4) Introducing external factors such as productivity or production quotasor other programs to the extent that they interfere with the ability to provideappropriate professional services to the public.(5) Incenting or inducing the transfer of a prescription absent professionalrationale.Stat. Auth: ORS 689.151, 689.155(2), 689.205, 689.225(4)Stat.
Oregon pharmacists say: We’re not burger flippers
Published: Sunday, May 27, 2012, 6:51 AM Updated: Sunday, May 27, 2012, 8:51 AM
Oregon pharmacists are fed up.
They say they’re overwhelmed with the crush of prescriptions totaling hundreds per day. They’re tired of long days with rare bathroom or meal breaks. Mostly, they’re worn down by the stress that comes with dispensing life-or-death medicines in a burger-flipping environment.
So they’re fighting back through the board that licenses their employers. Last week, the Oregon State Board of Pharmacy approved new rules governing working conditions in pharmacies. These rules may compel some of the big chain stores, which are coming to dominate the pharmacy world, to adopt more patient-centered business practices.
This is good news for people in Oregon who regularly get prescriptions for themselves, their children or elderly parents: The status quo simply isn’t safe enough.
“Patients aren’t being treated well,” says Oregon pharmacist Blake Rice, a former pharmacy board member. “The board is finally bringing into immediate relief the staffing issue at outlets.”
In 2011, the board invited the state’s 5,000-plus licensed pharmacists to answer an online survey about working conditions. The 1,400 respondents highlighted a troubling gap between chain outlets and independent pharmacies in Oregon. Only one quarter of chain store pharmacists said their working conditions promoted safe and effective patient care, compared with more than three quarters of pharmacists at independent stores.
Chain pharmacists also warned about their workload and patient safety. They further railed against the endless incentives that chains often use to encourage people to transfer and fill prescriptions: the gift cards, the bonus coupons, the fuel points. The incentives may be good for luring people to buy groceries, but they also create billing headaches and dangerous prescription mix-ups as patients swap pharmacies to save $10 or rack up fuel points.
“I feel like I’m sort of a glorified gas station attendant now,” says Portland chain pharmacist Belinda Misterek, who works for one of the major grocery-store chains and who testified last week to the state board. “People who don’t need prescriptions, they’re just filling them to get their fuel points. … These working conditions are awful.”
The survey and testimony spurred the board into action. Under the new rules, the state board can fine pharmacies — and even suspend or revoke their licenses — for creating a work environment that puts patient safety at risk. The rules require employers to provide rest periods and meal breaks and to allow pharmacists enough time to do their jobs, including patient counseling and prescription verification.
The board wisely backed down from a few heavy-handed proposals that would have restricted what businesses can say when they advertise. However, the board bucked the chain-store lobby and prohibited pharmacies from “incenting or inducing the transfer of a prescription absent professional rationale,” which is intended to curtail some of the frenetic pharmacy-swapping.
“I think soon you will start to see changes,” says Lis Houchen, a regional lobbyist for the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. “Each company will have to look at the rules and see what they need to do. There’s probably going to be a trial period.”
Gary Schnabel, the executive director of the pharmacy board, agrees. He says the board’s intent isn’t to dictate business operations, but rather to discourage any activity that becomes detrimental to patients, from inadequate staffing to crazy-making promotions.
“It’s about the environment,” he says. “A pharmacy is a professional environment. It’s not the deli counter. I think some of the stores had forgotten that.”
It’s impossible to know for certain if pharmacy error rates are going up, or if chain stores in Oregon have more problems than independent ones. The system relies largely on self-reporting and the data aren’t reliable enough to confirm suspected trends. But the feedback from pharmacists is telling, and it mirrors what customers see from their side of the counter.
I’ve seen it many times, waiting in line for medicine at the local Safeway and watching the staff scurry around like fast-food workers. In fairness, I’ll confess to adding to their stress by being irritated when my prescription is not ready instantly, as if it were a pound of turkey or a Tillamook cheeseburger rather than actual medicine.
So these new rules represent progress. Ideally, they will push chains to step up their staffing and allow pharmacies to treat customers more humanely, as patients.
But there’s more to the story here. Real change may require pharmacy customers — with their prescriptions in hand and internal clocks ticking wildly — to be a little bit more patient, too.
– Associate editor Susan Nielsen, The Oregonian