Medicine Shoppe closing its doors
Published: Thursday, September 27, 2012 at 2:38 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, September 27, 2012 at 2:38 p.m.
“Why are you closing?” The speaker is an older gray-haired man with a cane, whose question is echoed by many patients in line at The Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy on Tuesday afternoon, all wondering about the closing of their preferred pharmacy.
The patients' voices emit a mix of empathy, regret and concern, as the last independent pharmacy in Petaluma prepares to shut its doors on Oct. 9.
Pharmacy technician Theresa Gallagher knows the value of independent pharmacies, having worked at Tuttle's Drugs for eight years before it was bought by Longs. When a position at the Medicine Shoppe became available, she leapt at the opportunity.
“I grew up in independent pharmacies, so this was definitely a no-brainer; I've loved working here ever since,” she says.
Gallagher has an easy rapport with her patients: She commiserates over the closing of the pharmacy, asks them about their families, discusses good places to eat in town and politely answers questions about her job prospects.
“I've known a lot of them for a long time; some were my patients at Tuttle's and, briefly, CVS — so they came to the Medicine Shoppe with me,” she said.
“I've known some of them for 20 years; I know their kids, their grandkids, I've watched some of them get married,” says Gallagher. “Some of the patients, when they react to the news, it's almost like they're losing a family member.”
Here Gallagher breaks off to wish a longtime patient, Rhea, well.
“I hope to see you again!” she says, as Rhea waves good-bye.
“All current prescriptions at The Medicine Shoppe will be transferred to CVS on East Washington,” states a signed letter on the door from Medicine Shoppe owner Jamil Harb, who was out of town on Tuesday. And yet, several of the customers ask aloud if there was another option.
“They'll be able to go to CVS, or the chain grocery stores, but that's about it,” explains Gallagher. “They can hold out for Target I guess, but I'm not sure when they'll be open.”
In the letter to Medicine Shoppe customers, Harb laments the closing of the pharmacy after more than 30 years of service to the community of Petaluma, describing it as one of the most difficult decisions of his life.
“Over the last four years the competitive pressures in pharmacy have taken a toll on our ability to maintain this pharmacy as a viable business,” the letter states.
In combination with decreased reimbursements from insurance companies, Harb cites “the decisions of several local payers, including the County of Sonoma, that have mandated their employees obtain their prescriptions from out of town and out of state mail order pharmacies…” as most detrimental to his business.
Pharmacist Alvin Lee is equally disappointed by the closure of The Medicine Shoppe. He commutes to his job from San Francisco because he prefers to work at an independent pharmacy.
“I can do more good here,” Lee says. “Corporate pharmacies are focused on volume, but real patient care isn't based on doing things quickly, it's about knowing a patient's medical issues, their genetic predispositions, what drugs they're already taking — you have to take the time to know their needs in order to provide proper care.”
With eight years of rigorous study under his belt, Lee has been disappointed by the state of the corporate pharmacy business since graduating three years ago. He found solace in working at The Medicine Shoppe, where he was able to offer the level of care he feels is the obligation, right, and privilege of those in his profession.
“I can sum up the difference between corporate and independent pharmacies very easily,” Lee says. “When you interview at a corporate pharmacy they say ‘Our customers are our No. 1 priority.' But when you interview somewhere like The Medicine Shoppe, they inevitably say, 'Our patients are our No. 1 priority.”
It's just one word, but for Lee, the difference isn't subtle.
(Contact Liam Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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