CVS has been slammed for sending a ‘tone deaf’ memo to staff following a report detailing Ashleigh Anderson’s death.
The CVS pharmacist, 41, experienced symptoms of a heart attack on September 10, 2021, but since she was the only pharmacist on staff that day, she would have had to close the counter to leave – and waited for cover to arrive.
But before she could go to the emergency room, Anderson collapsed behind the counter of the CVS store in Seymour, Indiana, and died, despite desperate attempts to save her.
The USA Today report highlighted what happened on the day Anderson died and the stress she – as well as other pharmacists – was under.
Following the report, CVS Chief Pharmacy Officer Prem Shah sent employees a memo saying the company was ‘deeply saddened’ by Anderson’s death and that it would make ‘sustained investments to provide a more balanced, positive work environment’.
The memo has been described as ‘tone deaf’ by another pharmacist, who shared the memo on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Anderson, who was described as an ‘outstanding pharmacist who was committed to her patients’ in the CVS memo, suffered a blockage of a coronary artery, which lead to a so-called ‘widowmaker’ heart attack.
Her longtime boyfriend, Joe Bowman, received a message from her 15 minutes before her death, saying that someone to cover her was on the way and she would go to the emergency room after.
‘Hopefully it’s nothing and I will come back to work,’ she wrote in her last message seen by USA Today.
Her death came at a time when the pharmacy industry was under pressure from the pandemic, with many employees reporting they felt burnt out.
Staffing issues were ripe across the industry at the time and on the day that Anderson died, she was the only pharmacist on duty.
In the USA Today report, family members of Anderson suggested she did not want to close the counter and go to the nearby emergency room before cover arrived out of fear she ‘only’ had an anxiety attack and would have to face her superiors after.
Shah wrote in this week’s CVS memo that his leadership team is ‘deeply committed to […] foster a culture of safety for our patients, customers and colleagues’.
He said that digital innovations would be introduced to ‘help balance workload, maintain staffing hours even during slower periods, increase wages and bonuses and create a more sustainable reimbursement model’.
One social media user said after reading about Anderson’s story and the memo: ‘I hadn’t heard her story. Absolutely tragic.
‘And this memo sounds like “we are going to replace pharmacists with technology” and not like “we are going to appropriately staff pharmacies to accommodate workload”.’