A Prescription For Frustration – West Side Rag

A late UWS Duane Reade.

By Ed Hersh

With school in full swing and demand for flu shots and COVID boosters increasing, the Rag has heard reports of unexpected, sometimes day-long, closures of several Duane Reade pharmacies, including the busy 79th street and Amsterdam location.

From a post on the “Next Door” app:

Stay away from the Duane Reade Pharmacy in Amsterdam and 79th Street. By their own staff’s admission, it’s a “mess” and “will be for some time to come”.

The poster stated that the pharmacy had been closed for four days last week and that store staff:

…suggested that Duane Reade Pharmacy customers change their “preferred” pharmacy to Broadway and 72nd Street until the situation is resolved. Or at a non-Duane Reade pharmacy in the area.

When the Rag visited the 79e and Amsterdam Duane Reade On Friday the pharmacy was open. But after that reporter identified himself, a staff member at the pharmacy said, “We were told not to talk to the press.” A woman identifying herself as the store manager (who was helping with the pharmacy) said, “You’ll have to talk to the business,” which is Walgreens, Duane Reade’s parent company.

The Rag had already noted another unexpected closure last Monday, at the Duane Reade pharmacy at 90th and in Amsterdam. A store employee said at the time, “We needed a pharmacist. Another told the Rag: “Duane Reade knows about it but there’s nothing we can do about it.” On Friday, the pharmacy was open, with long lines for pick-ups and waiting for vaccines.

The Rag contacted the Walgreens media office and, in an emailed statement, spokesperson Kris Lathan said:

What we are seeing in some areas is consistent with what many other healthcare entities have experienced – staffing issues due to the ongoing national labor shortage.

We continue to take steps to help alleviate these pressures, but there are instances where we have had to adjust or reduce pharmacy hours as we strive to balance staff and resources in the marketplace. to better meet customer demand.

Pharmacists at two small, independent Upper West Side pharmacies said they had not seen evidence of a nationwide shortage of pharmacists. Rather, they say, it’s a shortage of pharmacists willing to work at high-volume drugstore chains like Duane Reade/Walgreens, CVS, and Rite-Aid. A recent New York Times article“How pharmacy work stopped being so great,” described the increased pressures on pharmacists working in national chains, citing a number of factors including continued demand for COVID tests and vaccines.

At the pharmacy on 79th Street between Amsterdam and Broadway, diagonally opposite Duane Reade, pharmacist Keith Lewis agreed that working conditions in chains can be difficult. “They kill you there,” he said. When he talks to chain pharmacists, he says, “they all look miserable.” And because of the random closings of some chain stores, he says he receives a steady stream of prescriptions. “We’re starting to get people through Walgreens,” he said.

On Facebook, another poster commented,

FYI, I was at the Duane Reade at 700 Columbus, saw a sign at the entrance showing the new pharmacy hours. They are now closed on Tuesdays and I think Thursdays as well. Still closed on weekends.

According to the Walgreens spokesperson,

Adjusted opening hours are reflected on the store locator, which is updated throughout the day at Walgreens.com/FindaStore and on the Walgreens mobile app. Customers with questions about their medications can also speak with a Walgreens pharmacist using the pharmacist’s video chat feature available 24/7 on the Walgreens mobile app and website.

The Rag will continue to report on this story. If you have any experiences with closures or difficulties at any of our local pharmacies, please let us know at info@westsiderag.com and we will follow up with you.

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