CVS, Walmart and Walgreens are reducing pharmacy hours
CVS and Walmart are reducing their pharmacy operating hours across the U.S. to improve employees' work-life balance as the chains continue to struggle with staffing shortages in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
CVS said it will be "adjusting hours in select stores" come spring, as part of a periodic review of "operating hours to make sure we're open during peak customer demand." The move will affect around two-thirds of the company's approximately 9,000 retail pharmacies beginning in March, a company spokesperson said in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch.
CVS, which is the largest pharmacy chain in the U.S. by revenue, said it's making the schedule changes in order to "ensure our pharmacy teams are available to serve patients when they're most needed," a CVS spokesperson said. "If a pharmacy is closed, a patient can visit any open CVS Pharmacy location for assistance with their immediate prescription needs," the spokesperson added.
Walmart also said it's cutting hours at its pharmacy locations nationwide to improve "work-life balance" for its associates.
Walmart pharmacies will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Previously they were open until 9 p.m. on weekdays.
"Walmart is committed to helping our associates live better. Walmart has a strong and incredible pharmacy team, and we are making this change to not only enhance their work-life balance but also to maintain the best level of service for our customers," Walmart said in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch.
Walmart said it's making the schedule change based on feedback from pharmacy staff and customers.
"By positioning our teams in the hours where our customers say they want to visit our pharmacy, we are better able to deliver excellent customer service and support our associates as they continue to serve their communities every day," Walmart said.
In mid-June, Walmart announced higher wages for more than 36,000 pharmacy technicians, raising their average hourly pay to more than $20.
Prior to the pandemic, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians outnumbered opportunities for employment, according to Michael Hogue, dean of the Loma Linda University School of Pharmacy.
As the COVID-19 vaccines first began to be rolled out in 2021, regional and national pharmacy chains were clamoring for qualified workers to support the massive public health campaign. Job opportunities for pharmacy students soared.
A spokesperson for the Walgreens pharmacy chain, the second largest in the U.S., also said it has had to adjust pharmacy hours over the past 12-plus months due to staffing challenges.
Walgreens added that it has hired thousands of pharmacists as well as increased pharmacy workers' pay to address ongoing staffing issues. It said the efforts are working and the issues are subsiding.
"We have seen positive staffing trends for the past several months as we work to return more stores to normal operating hours," Walgreens said.
Pharmacies aggressively hired pharmacists and pharmacy technicians starting in February 2021, when COVID-19 vaccines were first made available to the general public, to accelerate efforts to inoculate as many people as possible. Pharmacist job postings surged and drugstore chains offered hefty signing bonuses of up to $20,000.