The small-town pharmacist who knows all of his or her customers is a staple of TV and the movies. That fictional pharmacist has plenty of time to triple check medications and their dosage and to discuss things in detail with patients, most of whom have been his friends for years.
It ought to come as no surprise in 2012 that reality does not measure up to Hollywood’s fantasies. According to The Oregonian, “a recent survey by the Oregon Board of Pharmacy reported that more than 350 chain pharmacists – more than half of those responding – said their working conditions don’t promote safe and effective care.”
Perhaps most shockingly, only one-quarter of the 1300 pharmacists responding to the state’s survey “agreed working conditions promoted safe and effective patient care.” The article goes on to note that “many complained of having more prescriptions to fill each day with fewer staff; of 12-hour shifts with scant breaks; and constant distractions, such as administering immunization shots to augment profits.”
Of all the many problems with our medical system impacting Oregon patient safety this is arguably one of the most serious, yet under-publicized. It should go without saying that prioritizing patient safety is not simply a way of avoiding Oregon medical malpractice claims, it is, simply, the proper way to do business. Though economic times are hard for many, and pharmacies presumably suffer from the same economic pressures as everyone else, the corporations that run large chain pharmacies need to consider their obligations to the broader public.
The key role pharmacists play in our health care system requires them to exercise the same sort of caution we expect of doctors. Most pharmacists do so, of course, but when corporate employers stretch them, and the resources at their disposal, to the limits the effect on Oregon families from medical malpractice or even, Oregon wrongful death, claims can be devastating. Any Oregon medical malpractice attorney will be the first to acknowledge that profit is important or any business, but it cannot come at the expense of public safety. We depend on our pharmacists to help keep us safe and healthy. They, in turn, need to be given the optimum conditions in which to work.