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Indiana pharmacies 'overwhelmed, overworked, understaffed'

One university professor said pharmacy techs aren't applying for the jobs.

INDIANAPOLIS — The pandemic continues to have an impact on the workforce in central Indiana, especially healthcare.

Many pharmacies are stretched thin. Staff shortages are forcing some pharmacies to reduce hours or temporarily close.

"I know a lot of patients are really frustrated. They're going to the pharmacy, the pharmacy is closed, the hours are not what's printed on the store door or on Google and they're waiting hours to get their prescriptions," said Dr. Veronica Vernon, a practicing pharmacist and assistant professor of pharmacy at Butler University.

Vernon said pharmacists and pharmacy technicians at many pharmacies are overwhelmed and overworked.

"They're trying to get 13 hours of work done in an eight-hour day or a nine-hour day. There's just not enough hours in the a day for them. That's why prescriptions are getting delayed," she said.

In Anderson, a Walgreens pharmacy located at 3736 S. Scatterfield Road will be closed Wednesday due to staffing shortages. A spokesperson told 13News customers can get their prescriptions filled at a nearby Walgreens located at 320 S. Scatterfield Road.

"We continue to take steps to help mitigate current staffing pressures, including ongoing review of staffing levels within our pharmacies in order to meet the needs of our customers and patients," said Scott Goldberg, director of global corporate communications for Walgreens.

Carmel Prescription Shop, an independent pharmacy, had similar concerns in the past during the height of the pandemic.

"There are so many patients that come to us who have trouble getting basic primary care, and that could be due to doctor shortages or appointment shortages, and so we're able to do blood pressure checks, diabetes testing, COVID checks," said Dr. Saumiin Calsuttawala, owner of Carmel Prescription Shop.

Vernon said there is a graduating class of pharmacy technicians in the next four to six weeks, but said there will still be a significant shortage.

"More are now going into other areas of pharmacy, like hospital pharmacy or consulting or working for an industry," she said.

It's also a challenge when it comes to pay for pharmacy technicians.

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"Other positions out there may be offering more money or more incentives, and so that's pulling potential applicants for pharmacy technician jobs away and we need technicians. Pharmacy techs are so essential in pharmacy," Vernon said.

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Vernon said the average pharmacy tech makes anywhere between $15 to $20 an hour. Vernon wants to see that bumped up to $25 an hour, an incentive, she said, that could potentially attract more applicants.

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