Topics: News, Press

Bill Ensuring Safe Staffing Levels at Community Pharmacies Moves Out of Policy Committee

Sacramento, CA – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Western States Council applauded the Senate Judiciary Committee for passing AB 1286 (Haney), which will begin to alleviate the chronic understaffing of community pharmacies and pharmacist burnout that puts patients at risk of medication errors.

“There’s no question that patient safety has been significantly compromised due to the overwhelming workload and understaffing of pharmacy technicians,” said Christine Martinez, a pharmacy technician at Ralphs in Placentia and member of UFCW Local 324. “The pandemic made a bad situation even worse where we endured verbal abuse from customers lashing out in frustration because we lacked sufficient staff to meet their needs. We need our elected officials to help ensure that necessary measures are taken to alleviate the burden on pharmacy technicians and empower pharmacists to deliver optimal care to our patients.”

In 2021, the California Board of Pharmacy released a workforce survey of pharmacists that sought information about working conditions in community pharmacies. The survey results highlighted what UFCW’s member pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and pharmacy staff already knew – they faced significant challenges in terms of their workload, which was further exacerbated by the expanded role they played in the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • 83% of respondent pharmacists in community chain pharmacies said they don’t have sufficient time to provide appropriate patient consultation. 
  • 91% said current staffing levels are inappropriate to ensure adequate patient care. 
  • 78% of respondents said they do not have time to provide adequate screening prior to the immunization of a vaccine. 

“Pharmacy staff have been dealing with an increased workload for years now and it’s critical that we get these hard-working healthcare professionals help immediately,” said Andrea Zinder, president, UFCW Local 324. Our state will continue to rely on pharmacists for essential healthcare needs, so we have to make sure they have what they need to do their number one job – keep California’s patients safe. AB 1286 is that long overdue solution.”

In response to the survey, the Board established a Medication Error Reduction and Workforce Ad Hoc Committee to consider the issues of medication errors, workforce challenges and the intersection between the two, and undertook review of its regulation of pharmacy technicians. AB 1286 is the result of this work.

The Medication Error Reduction and Patient Safety Act will:

  • Ensure mandatory medication error reporting to an independent third party.
  • Establish a minimum staffing requirement and require closures of the pharmacy for lunch breaks where staffing doesn’t overlap.
  • Gives the pharmacists in charge more autonomy to address unsafe working conditions and gives the Board of Pharmacy the ability to more quickly intervene when there is a risk of death, illness, or irreparable harm to patients. 
  • Increase the Board of Pharmacy’s citation and fine authority for unlicensed activity.

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July 11, 2023

Contact: Jenna Thompson, 949.246.1620, [email protected]