CVS exec wants workplace change following expose about pharmacist who collapsed on job and died

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CVS Chief Pharmacy Officer Prem Shah sent a memo to staff on Thursday saying the company was making investments to create a “positive work environment” following an exposure about the 2021 death of one of its pharmacists. 

The eye-opening report by USA Today underscored the tremendous amount of stress put on workers in the industry because of the persisting staffing crisis.

In the memo, seen by FOX Business, Shah started by telling colleagues how everyone at CVS Health had been “deeply saddened” by the death of Ashleigh Anderson, who was described as an “outstanding pharmacist” who was comitted to her patients.  

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The memo was sent to CVS retail organizations after the report described how Anderson suffered a heart attack while working a shift at a CVS store in Seymour, Indiana, in September of that year.

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It was around that time when the pharmacy industry was under immense pressure from the vaccines and pandemic, which caused many employees to burn out. Anderson was the only pharmacist on duty the day she collapsed and died on the pharmacy floor.

Shah continued in the memo by saying his leadership team is committed to “fostering a culture of safety” for its customers, patients and employees.

“Because of what our store-based teams have told us, we are making sustained investments to provide a more balanced, positive work environment,” he wrote.

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Some of their efforts included enhancing technology to support patient safety, introducing digital innovations that improve the customer experience and help balance workload, as well as maintaining staffing hours even during slower period. Shah said they are also increasing wages, bonuses and “creating a more sustainable reimbursement model.”

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In a statement to FOX Business, CVS said it does not want anyone to stay at work if they become ill or experience a health emergency. It also said that the company encourages colleagues to report workplace issues “anonymously if they choose – without fear of retaliation, so we can promptly investigate and take action as needed.”

However, it wasn’t that long ago that pharmacists threatened to walk off the job over working conditions. In October 2023, workers from some of the nation’s biggest pharmacy chains, from CVS to Walgreens, planned another walkout.

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It came just weeks after Walgreens pharmacists from 200 stores walked off the job in a separate protest. The month before, in September 2023, CVS employees in at least a dozen Kansas stores didn’t show up to work in a separate walkout.

A Walgreens pharmacist and one of the people organizing one of the walkouts said the major pharmacy chains have been unable to effectively staff their stores while increasing the responsibilities of current workers.

The increased pressure to keep up with the demand for tasks was putting patient lives at risk, the employee said.

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