IRONDEQUOIT, N.Y. (WROC) – Pharmacy workers for chains like Walgreens and CVS are planning nationwide walkouts to take place in the coming weeks.

While we haven’t seen it in our region, locally-owned pharmacies in the Rochester area are standing by to help patients.

Walkouts for CVS pharmacy employees have already taken place in Kansas City, Missouri and at Walgreens locations across the U.S. over heavy workloads and understaffing.

Dave Seelman opened Irondequoit Pharmacy in 2019, after 15 years spent working in the corporate pharma industry. He describes some of the conditions workers across the country are walking off the job over.

“When you’re short-staffed, it can get pretty challenging in a pharmacy. The phone never stops ringing. Patients never stop coming, and it turns into a vicious cycle where it gets more and more stressful and more and more challenging. I think we’ve finally reached the tipping point where the pharmacists have said, ‘We’ve had enough. We can’t do this anymore,'” said Seelman.

With strikes staged elsewhere, the question becomes: When will it happen here at home?

As an independent pharmacy owner, Seelman says it’s hard to tell.

“I think this is bubbling under the surface in terms of who locally is going to participate in these walkouts, so that I can’t really say for sure. Certainly, if they can’t go to their regular pharmacy, we want to make sure we’re here. We don’t want patients to go without their medications,” said Seelman.

He says the walkouts have been brewing for years, and should they happen locally, patients should turn to their local, independent pharmacies.

“Ultimately, these are publicly traded companies so their ultimate goal and ultimate obligation is to their shareholders. They’re going to maximize profits at whatever cost necessary, and in a lot of cases, that turned out to be working conditions,” said Seelman.

A spokesperson from CVS issued the following statement on potential walkouts:

“We’re serving patients across our footprint and we’re not seeing any unusual activity regarding unplanned pharmacy closures or pharmacist walkouts.

We’re committed to providing access to consistent, safe, high-quality health care to the patients and communities we serve and are working with our pharmacists to directly address any concerns they may have. We’re focused on developing a sustainable, scalable action plan to support both our pharmacists and our customers, that can be put in place in markets where support may be needed so we can continue delivering the high-quality care our patients depend on.”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Walgreens issued the following statement:

Our pharmacy teams work tirelessly to serve our communities — from administering life-saving vaccines, to helping patients receive prescriptions and health screenings — especially this time of year, during which we see some of the highest rates of respiratory illnesses and seasonal vaccinations.

The last few years have required an unprecedented effort from our team members, and we share their pride in this work — while recognizing it has been a very challenging time.

We also understand the immense pressures felt across the U.S. in retail pharmacy right now. We are engaged and listening to the concerns raised by some of our team members. We are committed to ensuring that our entire pharmacy team has the support and resources necessary to continue to provide the best care to our patients while taking care of their own wellbeing. We are making significant investments in pharmacist wages and hiring bonuses to attract/retain talent.