(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.”