The State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy has fined a CVS store $250,000 and imposed a minimum three-year probation after finding understaffing risked staff and patient safety.
This could be the first in a series of sanctions against CVS stores with as many as 20 other stores facing allegations of understaffing.
An inspector who attended the store in Canton, Ohio, in September 2021 found staff completely overwhelmed to the point they didn’t notice her arrival.
The inspection reports facilities such as an inside counter were closed, and many patients were unable to access the medication they needed in a timely manner.
The pharmacy was filling out prescriptions a month behind schedule and lacked proper controls over the dispensing of dangerous drugs. Staff members at the store even asked management to close the store to allow them to catch up on prescriptions and clean the pharmacy. The request was denied.
Although the fine pertains to reports from 2021, employees at CVS have taken more recent action to speak out over dangerous working conditions that leave them unable to fill prescriptions safely. Workers at CVS joined employees from Walgreens in a series of walkouts in September, October, and November 2023.
CVS employees have also accused management of deliberately creating conditions where pharmacies are understaffed. In July 2023, Iggy Aleksick, a pharmacy technician at a CVS store in Bowling Green, Ohio, stated “understaffing is pretty deliberate from our upper and middle management.”
“It’s not that we don’t have people to work, it’s that we’re not allowed to be scheduled. Even in the past couple weeks, my pharmacy manager was told to cut 36 hours from her week and it was a Thursday. It wasn’t possible for her to do.”
Alongside the $250,000 fine, The State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy imposed a minimum three-year probation on the CVS store, with enhanced scrutiny designed to eliminate low staffing levels.
The store must ensure sufficient staffing is scheduled “at all times in order to minimize fatigue, distraction, or other conditions which interfere with a pharmacist’s ability to practice with requisite judgment, skill, competence, and safety to the public,” according to the ruling.
It must also create a new system where employees can formally ask for additional staff with each request being made visible to the board. Prescriptions must now be filled within three days, or five days for those which are automatically re-filled.
Under the ruling, CVS employees are also offered greater protection when they report situations risking their safety or the safety of patients.
Steven W. Schierholt, Executive Director, State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy, says in a statement that he hopes this will “send a strong message” to Ohio pharmacies to “serve their patients by ensuring appropriate staffing levels.”
“The Board will continue to inspect and hold those accountable for working conditions that endanger patients and pharmacy staff,” he continues.
A spokesperson for CVS, Amy Thibault, says the pharmacy will continue to work with the Board of Pharmacy to resolve the issues raised during the inspections and will put in place policies and procedures to support the safety of employees and patients.
“Regarding staffing, it’s well-known that there’s an industry-wide shortage of health care providers, including pharmacists, and we’re committed to ensuring there are appropriate levels of staffing and resources at our pharmacies,” Thibault says.
“In response to feedback from our pharmacy teams, we’re making targeted investments to address their key concerns, including enabling teams to schedule additional support as needed, enhancing pharmacist and technician recruitment and hiring and strengthening pharmacy technician training.”
According to an email from The State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy to CNN, the state regulator has 22 cases pending against 20 CVS stores in Ohio alone. The issues include hundreds of further cases of late prescriptions, unsafe working conditions, and widespread staffing shortages.