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Short-staffed Oregon pharmacies lead to long wait times

Noah Camuso
The Walgreens on Coburg road. At the end of September, Walgreens announced that it was acquiring Bi-Mart’s pharmacy business. Prescription file transfers started in October and are expected to be complete by January 2022.

Pharmacy customers looking to fill prescriptions have been experiencing unprecedented wait times in Eugene and throughout the state.

A line of cars waits at the drive through window at the Walgreens on Coburg road. Online, customers report waiting three hours or more to fill prescriptions. Long waits are a product of staffing shortages, Walgreens’ recent acquisition of Bi-Mart’s pharmacy and demand for COVID-related services.

According to Kevin Russell, Central Oregon Regional Director on the Oregon State Pharmacy Association Board, pharmacies have long struggled with understaffing because of PBMs or Pharmacy Benefit Managers. Here’s Russell on OPB’s Think Out Loud: 

“The people who actually pay the pharmacies and determine what the patients pay for prescriptions are PBMs. They determine what the pharmacies actually get paid. Each year, that payment has gotten less.”

Russell suggests customers experiencing long wait times complain to their employer insurers, the clients PBMs answer to.

“If enough people complain to the insurers and employers, they’re going to go back to the PBMs and say, ‘Hey, our people can’t get drugs. What’s going on here?’”

copyright 2021 KLCC.

Noah Camuso is a freelance reporter for KLCC.