Printer Friendly

VALLEY PHARMACY POSITIONS GOING UNFILLED.

Byline: Dereck Andrade Staff Writer

A shortage of licensed pharmacists across the Valley and throughout Southern California is forcing some drugstore chains to offer new pharmacy graduates as much as $25,000 in cash signing bonuses as they look to Canada and South Africa for new hires.

The problem is industrywide, experts say, affecting drug and grocery stores from California's Central Valley to San Diego.

It is being driven by an aging baby boomer population, designer ``lifestyle'' drugs led by Viagra that physicians are more commonly prescribing, medication that is prolonging the quality of life and drugs that can now be purchased over the Internet.

The shortage could be exacerbated by the influenza season this fall, said Jeff Goad, community pharmacy program co-director at USC's School of Pharmacy.

``Are there going to be delays? Probably, as we enter into the flu season, with secondary ailments related to the flu,'' he said.

But possibly the biggest risk to consumers will come when local pharmacies can't staff their counters constantly.

``There may be cutbacks to shorter hours,'' said Dan Kidder, a spokesman for the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. ``That is the main concern.''

Kevin Herglotz, public affairs director for Arcadia-based Vons Cos., which also owns Pavilions markets, said the company is aware of areas where there is a need for more pharmacists.

``We do have areas where we are concentrating on a higher need for pharmacists,'' Herglotz said.

Herglotz declined to comment on what exactly the grocery chain is doing to combat its shortage of pharmacists.

``We are offering competitive packages,'' he said.

Vons and Pavilions have 340 pharmacists in 154 store-based pharmacies throughout California and Nevada.

In some areas of the Southern California, the problem is so serious that drugstore chains are promising brand new BMWs to their new recruits.

``When we talk about a (pharmacist) shortage, the demand has just grown tremendously within the last year,'' said Monica Vera-Schubert, a pharmacy recruiter for Boise, Idaho-based Albertson's Inc., which owns Sav-on, Osco and East Coast-based Acme drugstores.

``I don't want to promote a public scare; we are operating as we should be,'' Vera-Schubert said.

For instance, Sav-on, which has 450 pharmacies and 2,000 full- and part- time pharmacists in California, has scores of pharmacist openings across the region that company recruiters say they just can't fill.

``In terms of the chains, there is a shortage in the San Fernando Valley,'' Vera-Schubert said. ``A lot of the time the pharmacists who work in the San Fernando Valley have owned their pharmacies for over 20 years. They are staying independent, and they don't want to work for the chains.''

``It is not as immediate as the other areas,'' Vera-Schubert said.

In 1996, American pharmacists filled 2.5 billion prescriptions. That number is expected to jump to 3 billion by the end of the year.

Officials with the National Association of Chain Drug Stores in Alexandria, Va., said there are 7,000 pharmacist openings nationwide that their members are aggressively trying to fill.

``It is really putting a lot of stress on the system,'' said Mary Ann Wegner, vice president of pharmacy regulatory affairs with the drugstore association. ``This is one of the most critical issues our industry is facing.''

But of the 82 United States colleges that have pharmacy doctoral programs, fewer than 8,000 graduated this past May to fill not only chain drugstore openings but those at hospitals, clinics and independent pharmacies.

While the chain drugstores say colleges are doing their best to graduate new pharmacists, it's not enough to meet the industry's demands, forcing them to look at foreign hires.

Albertson's officials said many competitors are now recruiting from Rite Aid Corp., a Harrisburg, Pa.-based company that has frequently hired from Canada and South Africa.

``The industry as a whole is experiencing a shortage in pharmacists,'' said Jody Cook, a Rite Aid spokeswoman. ``We have an aggressive recruitment effort to hire more pharmacists. Our goal is to always have full coverage of pharmacists in our stores.''

But before they can practice in the U.S., they must first have all of their credentials and curriculum approved by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy in Chicago. Then they have to take the North American Pharmaceutical Licensuer exam, proctored in every state but California, which makes pharmacists take a state board test.

They must also pass the Foreign Pharmacy Equivalency Examination, also proctored in Chicago.

Even with the temptation of cash bonuses and new cars, drugstore chains still can't fill pharmacist voids in such cities as Apple Valley, Lancaster, Palmdale and Tehachapi.

Pharmacist shortages are also being reported in Arizona, Kansas, Nevada, Washington and Texas.

With an average starting salary for pharmacists ranging from $75,000 to $100,000, chain drugstores and grocery stores are having to compete against one another to fill thousands of openings.

Goad said the proliferation of chain drugstores has in itself created its own demand and colleges should not bear the blame.

``We can't solve the ills of the profession.''

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

Monica Vera-Schuber, a pharmacy recruiter for Albertson's and Sav-on, has numerous openings to fill.

Joe Binoya/Special to the Daily News
COPYRIGHT 2000 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2000, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

 
Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 27, 2000
Words:863
Previous Article:L.A. WAKES UP TO WET MORNING.
Next Article:EXTRAS KEY TO OFFICES' ALLURE.


Related Articles
HOSPITAL ACTIVELY RECRUITS NURSES RETIREMENT HELP A PLUS FOR WORKERS.
HOSPITAL SURPLUS DOWN NEW HIRES LEAVE ONLY $5.3 MILLION.
PHARMACISTS IN SHORT SUPPLY DURING PRESCRIPTIONS BOOM.
SUPERVISORS VOTE TO OK $16.2 BILLION COUNTY BUDGET.
PARK BOARD MAY LAY OFF HISTORIAN AT STRATHEARN.
Pharmacist shortage puts grads in high demand: starting salaries skyrocket, but shortages persist. (Update).
COLLECTIONS DIFFICULT WITH BUDGET CUTS.
NO CASH IN BUDGET FOR NEW MTA WORK.
WAXMAN: PROSECUTORS SHORTCHANGED REPORT SAYS U.S. ATTORNEY IN L.A. AREA UNDERFUNDED, UNDERSTAFFED.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters