Message to Mr. Leo Gerard, International President - United Steelworkers Union
July 23, 2010
From 1995-2005 I was employed by Medco as a pharmacist. I was fired as a whistleblower due to my concerns about pharmacy ethics and patient safety relating to Medco prescription-filling policies. Unfortunately, since 2005 not much has changed at Medco, in particular, Medication Error rates; they have increased and error reporting standards have dropped. This is fixable.
On July 5, 2010 I launched a hunger strike to bring attention to the unconscionable practices at Medco mandated by top management. My story caught the attention of United Steelworker union representatives who are also battling with Medco.
Time is of the essence. Let’s organize and let’s prevail.
Mr. Gerard, I listened to you on MSNBC a few months back defending the victims of the mining disasters your union was representing. You were also critical of the CEO of the mining company for his callousness. It is unfortunate that you were addressing these issues "after the fact". If these safety issues were dealt with proactively, the lives of so many miners could have been saved.
The United Steelworkers Union under your leadership is also representing the employees of Medco pharmacies all over the United States including the one here in Tampa Florida. It is ironic that your union is faced with a similar situation (profits over safety) in relation to Medco.
The difference here is victims of Acts of Criminal Negligence on the part of Medco are not just the pharmacist-employees, but also include the public at large in the form of millions of patients who get prescription benefits from Medco. I also understand that up to 30- 40% of patients who get prescriptions from Medco are United Steelworkers Union members and their families all over the country. (Please correct me if I am wrong).
The following wrongful practices have jeopardized patient health and safety and constitute an Act of Criminal Negligence by Medco:
a) Pressuring pharmacists to “enter and check” 45-55 prescriptions per hour
b) Pressuring technicians to enter up to 55 prescriptions and more per hour and pressuring pharmacists to check prescriptions entered by technicians at the rate of 130-150 prescriptions per hour.
c) Penalizing and retaliating against pharmacists for exercising their professional judgment during the course of their work.
If a Medco pharmacist makes a claim that he/she can “final check” a prescription in less than 25- seconds- per- script, without any errors, he/she is only speaking up as a Medco spokesperson and not in the interest of public safety.
By any standard of reason and rationality, it is impossible for a pharmacist to completely and accurately verify and check a prescription entered by a technician in less than 25 seconds per prescription without committing errors.
In 2002 the maximum number of prescriptions a pharmacist was “entering and checking” (without tech help) was around 30 prescriptions per hour. At that time, the quality was very good. By pressuring pharmacists to “enter and check” more and more number of prescriptions coupled with the threat of disciplinary actions, the quality of work deteriorated many folds. That means the Medication Errors increased by many folds and multitudes of Medco patients received wrong medications.
Even one extra Medication Error attributed to these practices is too many. Any one of these errors could prove to be fatal and could affect any of the millions of Medco patients, including millions of Union members and their families all over the country.
I fervently appeal to you to act proactively and hold Medco accountable for its unconscionable management decisions. Union negotiations should not just revolve around getting better remuneration for the employees. It should also involve issues related to preventing and stopping Acts of Criminal Negligence and ensuring public health and safety.
From all the evidence we have gathered since 2005, it is an undisputed fact that I was retaliated against by Medco for raising these professional concerns with the Florida Board of Pharmacy and Medco CEO, Mr. David Snow. This despite having good productivity and quality work records for nearly 10 years of service with Medco (1995-2005).
I have presented my case with all its particulars on my blog (www.ihungerstrike.blogspot.com). All these details are being documented for posterity.
Time is practically running out for me. I do not have any ill will against Medco.
I am carrying on this fight with undivided attention to stop these dangerous practices, clear my name and undo the damage done to me.
I hereby appeal for your support in terms of positive actions to achieve these objectives.
Expecting to hearing from you,
Raj Bhat RPh