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Hospital Pharmacies Hurting from Recession--April 2009

Author: Jessica A. Smith, Assistant Editor

Patients are not the only ones feeling the pain of the economic downturn. Hospital pharmacy departments across the country are suffering too, faced with leaner budgets and streamlined staffs, according to a survey conducted by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP).

“Pharmacy departments are being asked to do more with less while they still have to meet critical patient care needs to ensure safe and effective medication use,” said ASHP President Kevin J. Colgan. “Networking with peers and sharing experiences can help pharmacists meet these challenges, and ASHP intends to serve as that resource for our members.”

Drawing input from 541 US hospitals, the survey queried respondents about the impact of the economy on payroll and employment, cost and capital investment management, pharmacy services, and education and professional development.

Of the respondents, 66% reported being required to reduce their drug budgets, and 37% stated that their staffing budgets have been reduced during the last 6 months. Employee layoffs were reported by 10% of respondents and 22% stated that vacant positions have been frozen in their pharmacy departments. Of participating hospitals with student rotations, 16% reported that the number of those rotations is slated for reduction. Among respondents that have accredited first year residency programs, 7% stated that they will be reducing residency programs.

The fiscal crunch has produced other changes, some of which could be deemed positive for pharmacists. For 60% of participants, new oversight responsibilities for organizational projects to identify and obtain cost reductions were reported. Expanded leadership opportunities resulting from management vacancies in other departments have reportedly emerged for 23% of respondents.

The survey was aimed at helping pharmacists in hospitals and health systems better understand the impact of the current economy and find ways to cope with it, according to Colgan. Furthering this goal, ASHP has added several hours of new educational content to its upcoming Summer Meeting in Rosemont, Illinois, June 14-17, devoted to helping pharmacists pull through the recession successfully. ASHP discussion boards will see additional topics that provide the opportunity for pharmacists to share experiences and helpful information. The organization’s Leadership Conference, slated for October in Chicago, Illinois, will focus on how to weather the storm of the current economic climate.

For other articles in this issue, see:

Pharmacists Increase Revenue with MTM

Diabetes, BP Drugs Taken by More Kids

Costs of Cancer Pills Hard to Swallow with Existing Coverage