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‘Major inconvenience’: C. Oregonians voice frustration over pharmacy closures, transfers, wait times

(Update: adding video, comments from Bi-Mart, Sisters resident, Rite Aid)

SISTERS, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Several pharmacies in Central Oregon are experiencing longer wait times and delays, and one popular group of pharmacies is closing and shifting customers to another business.

Bi-Mart recently announced that Walgreens is acquiring its pharmacy business, which has left some residents frustrated.

Bi-Mart in Sisters will no longer have a pharmacy, and 72-year-old Sisters resident Barbara Pratt now has to travel nearly an hour round trip for her prescriptions.

“It's a major inconvenience, especially for the elderly folks that are here,” Pratt said Thursday. 

“What scares me is we will have to travel quite a while and go out of our way to get the medication that we need,” Pratt said. 

Pratt said she has considered using a mail service, but feels the mail is facing similar delay issues.

Some Bi-Mart stores will still have a pharmacy staffed and run by Walgreens. 

However, an employee at the Sisters Bi-Mart said that's not going to be the case there.

Don Leber, vice president of advertising with Bi-Mart, said that decision was made by Walgreens.

Even before the switch, Pratt was noticing longer wait times.

“It's taking us at least a week to get our prescriptions, and they’re prescriptions that we’ve had for a long time and have been ordering regularly,” Pratt said. 

Several viewers say the Rite Aid pharmacies in Bend and Redmond are taking longer than usual as well to fill their prescriptions.

Brad Ducey, a communication manager for Rite Aid, told NewsChannel 21 in an email:

"Like most pharmacies and retailers, Rite Aid is experiencing some staffing challenges in different regions, including in Oregon. As our pharmacy associates in Bend work hard to address increased prescription volume and high demand for COVID-19 vaccinations and testing, customers may experience slightly longer wait times for their prescriptions. We are working on a range of initiatives aimed at recruiting and retaining pharmacy associates that should improve our ability to fill prescriptions quickly."

But for Pratt, her biggest worry is for the elderly in Sisters having to make a winter drive more than 20 miles to Bend or Redmond.

“I’m not in such a bad situation, I can still drive. But there are a lot of people here who can’t,” Pratt said. “So it's more than even just an inconvenience, in some cases it might even be life threatening.”

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Noah Chast

Noah Chast is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Noah here.

Comments

48 Comments

    1. Unfortunately, Amazon can’t help with urgent RX’s. They only deal with ongoing RX’s. And stating that there are “slight” delays is an understatement. It took me two days to get antibiotics from Walgreens. BTW, there’s no drive thru at Walgreens for anything but COVID tests and that’s by appointment only!

  1. Staffing challenges include low pay, having to offer/give COVID vaccinations, increasingly short-tempered customers, long lines, and so on.

    Walgreens and Rite-Aid suffering same and it will get worse.

    1. Good point! I was at Rite-aid in Redmond today and they have stopped doing vaccines until next month and they do not do boosters. they were sending people to Walgreens or their DR.

    2. We were getting our flu shot at Walgreens when Karen melted down and said she was taking her business to Rite-Aid because they had *WAY* better service, and we all just started lol’ing.

  2. My pharmacy has gotten hammered by these closers. When I asked what was going on the pharmacist also explained that Safeway had to stop filling prescriptions as well. Apparently they started giving vaccines and so many people showed up that they couldn’t serve their other customers needs. Hopefully they will get this sorted out soon and this is temporary.

      1. I’ve used VA for my prescriptions for years now and because I’m in Coos Bay, I have a local non-VA Clinic doctor. Roseburg VA Pharmacy is where most of my prescriptions come from and if I need something filled ASAP (like antibiotics), they over-night them. I bet Portland VAMC Pharmacy does the same.

            1. Thanks for keeping this one going, Barney. I like to read what regular folks are thinking even if I don’t agree with it. It is also useful as a way to spread links to information that the media for some reason chooses not to share. I am not saying you are doing this Barney, but there is a clear agenda in how “News” is presented on both sides. Fox apparently shut down their comments section yesterday. I had noticed a growing trend of people not buying what Fox was trying to present in the article above those comments. This was the trend in the comments at CNN just before they shut their comments down as well. So please keep this comment section going as long as you can Barney and once again thank you.

              1. you’re welcome. Then there’s the false/unproven ulterior motives of why comment systems are going away – that it’s censorship of one side or the other, instead of just a costly waste of time/energy with potential legal issues for allowing tons of nasty attacks, false/unproven info.

  3. Why not overload already overworked Pharmacy staff with vaccinations that seem to be never-ending…now that Moderna is applying for a booster too! Geez, if the vaccine doesn’t work and can’t even keep people safe for 6 months to a year, I say scrap it and do something else. Nothing makes sense about injecting yourself every 6 months will GOD KNOWS WHAT. Studies in India and Africa are showing Ivermectin can almost remove Covid infections…makes you wonder what Covid really is?

  4. Bi-Mart pharmacy in Bend is closing on Nov.9th. I’m going to miss the convince of their outdoor walk up but that neighborhood is sketchy. Hope they don’t eventually shut that location down completely.

    1. I am really disappointed in Bi-Mart. As a 40 year loyal customer, I will now give them a lot less, or none, of my shopping business. The least they could have done is communicate with their ‘members’ over this decision. Instead, they left it to media coverage, and customers finding out when things become problematic.

  5. The one thing you can count on in life is change. Some are good some are not. This one falls under the NOT. Walgreens can’t accommodate ithe patrons it currently has. And asking our lderly to just adapt to online prescriptions doesn’t seem to be the most caring thing. Feel bad for them.

  6. Sister Drug is a local pharmacy happy to help you. Go there and quit whining. You all, especially in Sisters, rave about local business. There is one you can support.

    1. For Redmond folks~ John @ Central Oregon Pharmacy Compounding provides great service / prices. Drive up / walk in. Pleasant courteous staff.

      Blaming / shaming BiMart for a business decision does not serve. And I’m sure COVID has had an effect.

      Big pharma is to blame along with the insurance industry.

    1. Gg ~ what exactly do you mean by that comment? Please state your reasons.

      And what’s with the ageist comment. If you’re lucky you’ll make it there ~ in the meantime, show some respect vs being rude.

  7. Sorry to see this loss to the local communities. Have used BiMart pharmacies for 30 years both in Bend and in Madras, and found exceptional service in both places. Hope the Madras employees whom i came to know over the last 15 years find new jobs, great people

    1. Then vote GOP next election and save jobs- save lives- save America from the current Kaos and turmoil the Biden administration is engulfing everyone in.

  8. Bi-Mart pharmacy was not the only pharmacy in Sisters. Seniors that are unable to travel to Bend or Redmond can switch to Sister’s Drug inside Rays Food Place. Another alternative for those unable to drive themselves is Non-Emergent-Medical-Transport. I believe both Medicare and Medicaid qualify for this service. The transportation broker is Modivcare Transportation Solutions, formerly know as Logisticare. 855-397-3619. Sometimes we have no choice but to deal with the issue and move forward from it no matter how difficult that may be. There are alternative solutions.

  9. As a local to Sisters, and someone who unfortunately has to pick up a prescription MONTHLY it was nice that Bi-Mart came to the new age with a very functional phone app. I didn’t have to sit on the phone, or on hold…their system even texted me reminders! BiMart was also a decent sized pharm with plenty of things to pick up while waiting as well. Sisters Pharmacy is ONE window that’s at about hip height, and a long line of miserable people wound through the store. Albeit they have nice staff, but it’s a miserable place to fill a script, and they have ZERO technology or even a decent web page to fill your RX’s. Locals also never shop there…unless we want to pay above retail for groceries. So yes…it’s a major bummer.

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