SALT LAKE CITY — Intermountain Healthcare will close 25 of its 26 retail pharmacy locations in August as part of a new agreement with CVS Pharmacy.
The only retail pharmacy that will remain is at Primary Children’s Hospital. Inpatient pharmacies at hospitals will remain open, Utah’s largest hospital system said.
“We’ve seen changes in consumer preference in obtaining medications in retail pharmacies that offer added convenience and expanded shopping options,” Nannette Berensen, the vice president and COO of Intermountain Shared Clinical Services, said in a news release.
The move was announced earlier this week with Intermountain entering into an agreement with CVS Pharmacy to transfer over all prescriptions and inventory.
“Pharmacy files of each location will be securely and confidentially transferred to conveniently located retail pharmacy locations. CVS Pharmacy will work with all new patients to ensure that they can continue to access their medications easily and without disruption,” the news release stated.
The announcement came as a complete shock to pharmacy tech Jenn. (The Intermountain Healthcare employee asked FOX 13 not to share her last name or specify which retail pharmacy she works at.)
“That day at work was like a funeral. There was crying. There was anger. There was just every emotion across the board,” she said.
About 250 employees are being affected by the decision to close the retail pharmacies, Intermountain spokesman Daron Cowley said. The retail pharmacies are not being utilized enough to remain open. Last year, the retail pharmacies suffered $11 million in losses. As of May, this year has brought about $6 million in losses, Cowley said.
Jenn says it feels like Intermountain Healthcare is saying the work that is done by employees at the community pharmacies is not important to them.
“I feel like bottom line what they are missing is the value we add that is not monetary,” she said.
It is heartbreaking, especially after all the hard work employees have put in during the COVID-19 pandemic, Jenn said.
“We worked out butts off during the pandemic. We were told we were essential, essential workers, we were told we were healthcare heroes, and to reach what we would like to be the home stretch, we were told the work that we do is not financially something that they will to continue,” she said.
In a news release, Intermountain said the company is committed to helping impacted employees:
"Intermountain is committed to working with impacted employees to identify an opportunity that aligns with their needs and preferences and they will have the option to transition to other roles within Intermountain and be considered for positions at local CVS Pharmacy locations."
“Every effort will be made to ensure patients and employees are well cared for during this transition,” Berensen said.
The idea that every employee will just be redeployed within the company is overhyped, Jenn claimed.
“So, if you want to stay within the company, you are doing something that is outside of what you are trained to do, and in a lot of our cases, what we love to do,” she said.
This is not a layoff situation, Cowley vowed.
“The intent is to do all we can to keep employees in equivalent jobs, some in a pharmacy, others in different healthcare settings, and maintain current pay whenever possible,” she said.
Intermountain Healthcare is trying to help, Jenn said, but she has been a pharmacy tech for 20 years and this is what she loves to do.
“They have done things to help us find new jobs, they have hired an outside company to help us with interviewing skills and networking, and with, what any company would do, any respectable company would do in a layoff. But the idea that we can get another job within the company is one that is being very much overhyped,” she said.
"We are not taking sides; we are just heartbroken," Jenn said of herself and her co-workers about the decision to close dozens of community pharmacies. “We will come out on top, all of us. We have a gifted team; we will figure something out, but this hurts.”
For a full list of closing pharmacy locations, click here.