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Pharmacists feel burnout over increased demand for COVID test kits, vaccines

Published: Dec. 29, 2021 at 11:15 PM EST
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GOOCHLAND, Va. (WWBT) - These days, the Goochland Pharmacy business phone rarely stays quiet. In fact, father and daughter duo Peyton Taylor and Sarah Nelson say business has been busier than ever with the surge of the Omicron COVID-19 variant.

“I confirmed with one of the clerks today; it’s well over 50 calls if not over 100 calls a day,” Nelson said.

On top of managing day-to-day operations, Nelson says a large share of phone calls are people looking for an at-home COVID-19 test kit. The problem is the kits have proven incredibly difficult to get a hold of during the post-holiday season.

“As far as I can determine, there is none available anywhere,” Taylor said.

Taylor is the pharmacy’s owner and says his store sells out of test kits just as fast as he can get them in.

“We’ve got them on order from three different wholesalers,” Peyton said. “I haven’t seen one come in yet.”

But it hasn’t stopped dozens of people from calling and flocking to his store, along with other pharmacies around town.

“I don’t think there’re any chains that have them right now,” Peyton said. “We try to help as many people as we can, but it gets to the point where you’re worn out at the end of the day.”

According to a survey by the Pharmacy Association this spring, 80 percent of community pharmacists are having a hard time filling open positions; 90 percent can’t find pharmacy technicians.

Pharmacy owners like Scott Kim are finding themselves in a similar situation. Kim is the owner of Mayson’s Pharmacy, which has three separate locations in Virginia.

“We’ve been trying to hire pharmacy technicians for more than a year,” Kim said. “We increased the pay rate, but we are still searching.”

Kim says more pharmacy techs are leaving due to burnout; other chains are in the same boat.

Now Rite Aid and Walgreens said they would adjust hours to alleviate stress among staff. CVS says it will also remain flexible to meet patient needs.

Over at Goochland Pharmacy, Nelson and her father try to do the same.

“With him and I, if one of us goes down, it’s going to be a madhouse; it’s going to be bad,” Nelson said.

“You want to try to help people, but our hands are tied,” Taylor said.

Taylor is now hoping that relief from the federal government can help calm things down.

“I would like to see if Mr. Biden really bought 500 million test kits,” Taylor said. “Get them out to the pharmacies, so we can start distributing them.”

Taylor says there have been instances where local pharmacists had the opportunity to purchase the COVID-19 at-home test kits in large quantities. However, he says that pharmacies have been afraid of buying too many tests if the president winds up sending them to the public for free.

Taylor says he wants to avoid the financial sting of being stuck with hundreds of tests no one needs.

“You do what you can for your patients - that’s all you can do,” Taylor said. “They’ve got to be patient with us too.”

Copyright 2021 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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