Economic Stress Taking Toll on Pharmacists Responsible for Life-Saving Medication Management
Washington, DC – As economic stress mounts on front-line nursing home pharmacies and pharmacists, the Senior Care Pharmacy Coalition (SCPC) today stressed the urgency of ensuring long-term care (LTC) pharmacies receive federal relief funds from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Relief is urgently needed to assure uninterrupted patient access to the 8-9 daily prescriptions, on average, vulnerable seniors in LTC settings need.
LTC pharmacies are eligible to receive Emergency Funds created by the CARES Act, but HHS has given no indication it intends to provide relief to LTC pharmacies. Alan G. Rosenbloom, President and CEO of SCPC, noted that funding announcements from the Health Care and Social Services Emergency Fund, both yesterday and earlier this month, failed to include provisions for LTC pharmacies.
“During a life-endangering crisis of this magnitude, it is essential to ensure the ongoing viability of the medication-management specialists who dispense to nursing home patients,” said Rosenbloom. “These front-line professionals are protecting seniors from potentially fatal drug-interactions and preventing potential catastrophe.”
“CARES Act funding to sustain LTC pharmacy’s essential, life-saving medication distribution in nursing homes is more than just sound policy – it’s common sense,” Rosenbloom continued. “The role of this service inside of America’s nursing homes is life-saving, and patients in these settings are the frail, medically compromised, and particularly COVID-vulnerable.”
Furthermore, the economic impact of COVID-19 on LTC pharmacies is stark and worsening. According to Rosenbloom, SCPC members are reporting higher costs and precipitous revenue declines:
- In March, average LTC pharmacy revenues dropped 15 percent or more — and areas hit hardest by the crisis saw decreases of 20-25 percent. Comparatively, retail businesses across the country saw a drop of about 8.7 percent.
- Revenue will continue to decrease in April and May, members report and are likely to continue to decline until hospital admissions rebound — which could take months.
- Overall operation costs are up as much as 6 percent or more across the country as LTC pharmacies have seen significant cost increases driven by PPE acquisition, social distancing measures, increased on-site supplies to offset possible shortages, and necessary enhanced infection control and sanitation protocols.
- Workforce layoffs of non-essential employees and reduced wages have already been implemented with more employment austerity measures expected.
“HHS action is urgently needed before the LTC pharmacy system breaks down, and patients in nursing homes and other LTC facilities lose uninterrupted access to essential medications,” Rosenbloom concluded.