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Walgreens customers pushed to Durango’s lone independent pharmacy

Rivergate Pharmacy has gained 3-4 patients per day
Staffing issues at Walgreens pharmacies in Durango have pushed customers to transfer prescriptions to other providers. (Associated Press file)
Mar 20, 2023
Staffing shortage causes intermittent closures at Walgreens pharmacies

Rivergate Pharmacy and Compounding Center, Durango’s only independent pharmacy, has experienced a surge in its customer base in the last six months. The two Walgreens locations in Durango have had difficulty retaining staff for more than a year, and patients say they have noticed a dramatic decrease in the quality of customer service over the last six months. As a result, Rivergate has been inundated by patients opting to shop local.

“Daily, we're having three to four patients a day – it's really been impressive how many people have been asking to transfer their prescriptions over,” said Lori Kearney, a pharmacist and the owner of Rivergate.

Walgreens patients have reported canceled orders, erratic closures and poor customer service.

“They were just really incredibly rude and I could see that they were overwhelmed and understaffed,” said Tara Gray, a former Walgreens patient who moved over to Rivergate.

Gray said she preferred to support a local business, but that the poor customer service was the final straw. Walgreens has also caught flak nationally and locally for its refusal to sell the abortion pill in certain states.

Problems at Walgreens have sent patients rushing to other pharmacies in town, which has been a boon for Rivergate.

Kearney said she has not been averse to the staffing challenges facing the industry. The small labor pool in Durango limits the number of candidates, but Kearney said she has had success recruiting in the broader southwest region.

She also blamed Walgreens’ metric-based evaluation criteria for pharmacists – which the company scrapped in October – for the widespread departure of its staff.

With some members of her staff on vacation for spring break, Kearney said that Rivergate had to limit hours this week. This was unusual, she said, and was the first time she has had to do so.

“Our hours are consistent,” Kearney said. “We're here, we're well staffed, we take care of our customers and we try to be really reassuring to patients who are transferring here that we will take good care of them.”


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