State lawmakers in California have passed what is described as a first-of-its-kind bill that seeks to ensure that chain pharmacies have enough staff on hand to operate safely.
Assembly Bill 1286, known as the Stop Dangerous Pharmacies Act, would require chain pharmacies to report all medication errors and provide rules around minimum staffing levels. The bill, which has been sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk, was prompted by concerns that pharmacy understaffing may be underlying prescription errors.
Included among the provisions of the bill is language that would allow pharmacists to temporarily close a pharmacy if they feel that their work environment is resulting in life-threatening conditions for patients.
“The bill is all about ensuring patient safety,” Susan Bonilla, CEO of the California Pharmacists Association, told Supermarket News.
She said the association supported the bill, and noted that while it requires pharmacies to report medication errors to the state, it also provides protections for pharmacists.
In addition, the pharmacist in charge at each pharmacy is given more authority to make staffing decisions, Bonilla said.
Retailers negotiated several provisions into the bill, she said.
“There were definitely a lot of negotiations about the bill throughout the entire process,” Bonilla said. “I believe the final form of the bill reflects a very vigorous review and a willingness to listen to all the parties involved.”
Gov. Newsom is expected to sign the bill, she said.
The legislation follows increased concern about pharmacy workloads since the pandemic. Many pharmacists reported challenging work conditions after a surge in patients seeking testing, vaccinations and other services.
Nearly 91% of pharmacists said in a recent California Board of Pharmacy survey that staffing levels were inadequate to provide quality patient care, according to reporting by CBS News. In addition, the survey found that more than 83% of pharmacists said they did not have enough time to consult with patients about taking their prescriptions safely.
Meanwhile, California pharmacies are believed to make nearly 5 million medication errors per year, according to the office of Calif. State Assembly member Matt Haney, who proposed the legislation. The total can only be estimated because pharmacies are currently not required to report medication errors, his office said.