Walgreens pharmacies suddenly close, causing confusion in Cambridge

CAMBRIDGE -- Walgreens customers like Heidi Gitelman were frustrated to learn a couple of their pharmacies in Cambridge closed without warning.

“I couldn’t believe it was closed, like I really had to do a double take, but then I went to the manager of the Walgreens and I asked him what happened,” said Gitelman. “And he was like almost shaking, he was really nervous and upset and he just said ‘we have a staff shortage.”

Walgreens says their pharmacies on River Road and Mass Ave in Cambridge were forced to close for three days over the last week because of staffing issues.

Even when they reopened, their website and phone messages still said they were closed, which led to some confusion.

“I knew that that pharmacist was coming back after the time that my family member needed their medication, so I was super concerned and you could tell he was concerned,” said Gitelman.

“I see it as part of the overall economic crisis we’re in,” said Rep. Mike Connolly, who was made aware of the issue Monday.

Rep. Connolly says he reached out to Walgreens himself.

“They’re sharing pharmacists through their network, and so they’re finding out the night before in some cases whether or not they’ll have a pharmacist the next day, and really I think from a public health standpoint that just isn’t tenable,” said Rep. Connolly.

Walgreens responded with the following statement Monday:

“We apologize for the inconvenience and thank our patients and customers in Cambridge for their patience as we worked to safely reopen our pharmacies located at 625 Massachusetts Ave. and 330 River Rd. Our teams are in the process of updating the website and phone messages to reflect that both locations are currently open. Each experienced temporary closures on 9/21 and 9/22 and 9/25 due to staffing issues related to the national pharmacist shortage.

In communities impacted by staffing shortages, we adjust hours of operation with the goal of creating minimal disruption for customers and patients. In such instances, we will direct customers to other nearby Walgreens locations for prescription needs, care and support. Adjusted store hours are reflected on the store locator, which is updated throughout the day at Walgreens.com/FindaStore and on the Walgreens mobile app. Customers who have questions about their medications can also talk to a Walgreens pharmacist using the Pharmacist Video Chat feature available 24/7 on Walgreens mobile app and website.”

“It isn’t a straightforward process of transferring the prescription particularly if the prescription was filled, but you haven’t picked it up yet, then the pharmacy closes,” said Rep. Connolly. “When it comes to things like insurance payments and stuff like that, that can be a complete nightmare.”

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