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Frustrated pharmacists fighting Target

Target pharmacist franchisees continue to seek protection and help just days after news was released that Walmart was securing the chain’s patient records.

“That information is erroneous and inaccurate,” says Dan Dimovski, co-owner of a Target pharmacy in Windsor and president of the Pharmacist Franchisee Association of Canada (PFAC), which represents 81 of the Target pharmacist franchisees. “Walmart can’t do that.”

Dimovski says Target released the news on its own website, taking it down only after the corporation was contacted by the association’s lawyer.

The Walmart news is the latest in the franchisees’ fight against Target after news last month it was shutting down its Canadian operations.

“We have a dilemma here,” Dimovski says. “Target is good at manipulating to get what it wants. This is undermining our system here in Canada.”

The association has its next steps planned, including reaching out to the media, sending letters to the premier of each province, as well as to each Member of Parliament.

The association has requests of Target, too. First, Dimovski says, is to stop sending out false information like the news Walmart was acquiring patients records from Target pharmacies. Secondly, he adds, is to give pharmacist franchisees an appropriate amount of time to wind down business for the benefit of patients and to comply with provincial and federal regulations. The association has hired legal counsel to fight for more time.

“They don’t want to recognize us and they don’t want to give us our rights,” Givrilidis says. “They have no remorse, no respect for patients and no respect for franchisees.”

PFAC started as a way to help Target assist its pharmacists, not because there were any signs operations would completely shut down. “We believed they were prepared,” Dimovski says. “We saw the model as a way to grow not only as a business, but for patients, too.”

But there were stresses and problems with the model long before the news of a shutdown of Canadian operations. Dimovski says there were problems with the technology, expired stock and what Dimovski calls “constant glitches.”

Pharmacists expressed concerns over the 78-hour week they were expected to operate, compared to the 64-hour week in the U.S. pharmacies. The association heard stories of how the stress was affecting pharmacists/franchisees, financially and in their personal lives. Some pharmacists were going bankrupt and couldn’t provide for their families.

But Target, the association says, was mostly unresponsive, providing occasional financial assistance to save afloat.

Stavros Gavrilidis, Windsor Target pharmacist a PFAC secretary, says he remembers requesting a delivery car, painted in the Target red and decorated with its logos. He says his request would take two weeks to process. Instead it took nine months.

There were also concerns over marketing. Dimovski says they were encouraged to target the “modern mom” demographic. “In pharmacy, we focus on everyone,” Dimovski says.

But the association remains together for its members. “We hope we can do what we can to help as many franchisees transition as easily as possible,” he says.

The association will hold a press conference in Toronto on Saturday, February 7.

This past weekend, Alykhan Alladina closed his Target pharmacy for good. After first hearing the news Target was closing via a text from his cousin, the Langley, B.C. pharmacist spent the last few weeks giving notice to his staff, calling patients to assure them there would be no gap in care and submitting the necessary paperwork to the College of Pharmacists of BC. Now the 30-year-old pharmacist says he’s ready for a vacation.

“I do feel some relief,” he says. “We’ve been under the gun since the announcement.”

Alladina is moving on to another pharmacy where he will work as a staff pharmacist; his Target patient files have been transferred to that store. He says he feels fortunate because he’s young and can easily transfer, unlike other franchises with decades of experience as pharmacists.

Like other franchisees, he says Target left them in the cold, often not responding to inquires via the email they were given the day after the initial announcement or helping franchises making final arrangements in closing their operations.

“Target hasn’t been open or honest,” he says. “They left us to sort it out on our own.”

He says that was not the message they got when they first opened or even months later, despite rumours in the media that Target’s Canadian operations were suffering. Alladina says pharmacists were assured they had a genuine partnership with Target.

“That was shared a lot: ‘Target was committed to us,’” he says. “They were logical people. They had good ideas. They knew what they were talking about, but it wasn’t the right situation.”

He says while he’s learned a lot about the business and retail side of running a pharmacy, he will take other lessons learned with him, too.

“You’re a bit more skeptical now of anything or anyone,” he says. “Maybe a healthy dose of skepticism is what we take from this going forward.”

This article originally appeared on CanadianHealthcareNetwork.ca

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