Healthcare is in the news everyday. Newspapers, magazines, television and social media…it’s a topic of paramount importance to Americans. It can be about health insurance , who has it and who doesn’t. It can be about Big Pharma and price gouging. Even the advertising world had been taken over. Gone are the Coolaid and Doritos commercials, get ready for the Cialis and Humira blitz! Putting aside the questions of whether or not you have insurance, whether you can afford to pay for it at all…a rising problem is just where to go when you need healthcare.
There has been a large surge of walk in clinics, on site work clinics and emergent care centers to take the load off
of overwhelmed hospitals. There are extended hour pediatric centers opening up to help working parents who don’t have time for normal physician hours. Once you have finally gotten a prescription after sitting in the ER for hours or finally gotten in to see the Doctor at a walk in clinic, you are still facing a large obsticle…where do you get your medication filled?
Twenty years ago the big box chain pharmacies were prepping for a seige. The baby boomers were coming of age and over the next decade, prescription numbers were expected to soar. Chain stores tried to position and plan ahead by expanding at a tremendous rate. Each one trying to out shine the other with customer service and convenience.
They used to advertise “the most 24 Hour stores in the country”. In the early 2000’s, they started to pull back…things got tight. They began to reduce the expansion rate and hold the line. Insurance reimbursements became huge negotiation battles and Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBM’s) came on the scene and took a large percent of the profit in the market. The chain pharmacies saw the way the industry was headed and started to withdraw. Drug inventories at the stores were reduced and you might have noticed how they never had the full amount of your prescription in stock, now you had to make 2 trips to the drugstore. When that wasn’t enough, they thought outside the box and started to force you to call ahead for your refills so they could automate and centralize the whole process. That led to a staff reduction at each store. So now you have less drugs to dispense and less people to do the dispensing and even that wasn’t enough to keep the investors happy and the stock prices high…you have to keep hitting your stock estimates! The next phase was cutting store hours to make the numbers look better. The most efficient way was to get rid of the night time pharmacists. Back in 2005, Melbourne and Palm Bay had three CVS stores and four Walgreens stores in a 15 mile radius that were open 24 hours. Over the last 10 years they have not only gotten rid of most of the 24 hour pharmacy departments, but have continued to decrease the pharmacy hours…first midnight, then 10PM and now some are even down to 8PM closing times. Don’t even think about the weekend hours. All the while, keeping the 24 Hour signage outside, but just the convenience store part…NOT the pharmacy department. This can be extremely frustrating to a patient in need of medication and seeing the lights on, only to walk in to closed shutters. Many emergencies and illnesses happen at night, over 60% of emergency room visits happen after 5PM. Where is the prescription support these people need?
As of today, there are only 2 pharmacies still open overnight, Walgreens on Eau Gallie and Wickham, and Night Owl Pharmacy, near Holmes Regional Hospital. Two pharmacists to service four hospitals in the area, two extended hour pediatric care clinics and multiple walk in clinics. It makes you ask where has the care in healthCARE gone?