Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Pharmacists at the Tampa VA hospital say they're struggling with staff shortages and burnout

The hospital and outpatient clinics serve more than 100,000 veterans in the greater Tampa Bay region.
James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital
The James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital and VA Tampa Healthcare System outpatient clinics serve more than 100,000 veterans in the greater Tampa Bay region.

Pharmacists in the government employees union say a vote of no confidence is a "last resort" after previous attempts to resolve staffing issues with leadership.

Pharmacists at the James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital in Tampa have passed a vote of no confidence in leadership with the health system, citing poor working conditions and a lack of support from management.

The pharmacists are members of the American Federation of Government Employees. Union representatives say pharmacists have experienced significant changes in workload in recent years as several full-time staff members have left.

Management has refused to fill those open positions, according to Wanda Bellamy-White, president of AFGE Local 547. Remaining staff are being overworked to meet demand, she said.

“They don't get lunch breaks; they don't get 15-minute breaks,” said Bellamy-White.

Union leaders say the changes in workflow have negatively impacted 67% of pharmacists.

Members have raised concerns to management about staff burnout and how that can threaten the quality of patient care, but Bellamy-White said they haven’t gotten help.

“I want an outside investigation because I can’t trust Haley [hospital leadership] to police itself, because they’re aware all of this is happening and don’t care,” said Bellamy-White.

They consider the vote of no confidence in pharmacy and executive leadership at the hospital a “last resort.”

The VA Tampa Healthcare System, which consists of the main hospital in Tampa and numerous outpatient clinics around the region, serves more than 100,000 veterans living in Hillsborough, Pasco, Polk and Hernando counties.

Its more than 5,000 employees are “integral, valued members” of the organization, spokesperson Regina Zhu said in an email.

“Leadership remains committed to engaging staff to address their concerns,” she continued. “JAHVH [the hospital] has actively negotiated to meet objectives that are in the best interest of Veterans.

"JAHVH leadership is in discussions with the pharmacy staff to best align their schedules and available resources to continue to provide the best care for Veterans in the Tampa Bay area.”

Union leaders urge hospital management to talk directly with pharmacists and pharmacist techs to better understand their concerns and make changes to improve employee satisfaction.

Some staff have already left due to burnout while others who remain are looking for jobs elsewhere, according to Marcia Beasley, second vice president of AFGE Local 547.

“We need to bring morale up, I mean we have some hurting employees — pharmacists who are really hurting,” she said. “It’s unbelievable … and the majority of them work hard, love their jobs and love taking care of their veterans.”

Copyright 2023 WUSF 89.7

Stephanie Colombini joined WUSF Public Media in December 2016 as Producer of Florida Matters, WUSF’s public affairs show. She’s also a reporter for WUSF’s Health News Florida project.