Topics: News, Press

Bill Requiring Community Pharmacies to Have Safe Staffing Levels Moves to Governor’s Desk

Sacramento, CA – The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Western States Council applauded the California State Senate 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. The bill passed the Senate yesterday, September 13, 2023.

“We’ve seen our member pharmacy staff become increasingly overwhelmed with their workload over the past couple of years and it’s time that California ensures our community pharmacies lessen the factors that can cause medication errors,” said Todd Walters, president, UFCW Local 135. “California relies on pharmacists to provide essential healthcare needs for patients, but these hard-working staff don’t have sufficient staffing levels to give patients the care they need, or even take a bathroom break. We must give pharmacists what they need to do their number one job – keep California’s patients safe with AB 1286. UFCW’s essential workers urge the Governor to sign this bill into law.”

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. 

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:

  • Establish a first-in-the-nation mandatory anonymous reporting of medication errors to an independent third-party approved by the Board of Pharmacy
  • Provide minimum staffing for pharmacists who work alone by requiring a technician or clerk to assist the pharmacist from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
  • Give the Board of Pharmacy authority to issue a cease and desist order within 24 hours if the Board determines the conditions in the pharmacy present an immediate risk of death, illness, or irreparable harm for patients, personnel, and pharmacy staff 
  • Require closures of the pharmacy for lunch breaks where staffing doesn’t overlap

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September 14, 2023

Contact: Jenna Thompson, 949.246.1620, [email protected]