Westwood Pharmacy closes
Changes in the marketplace and too many rules and regulations make it difficult for small town pharmacies to operate said Harvey.
Yet, he added the experience of being in business for 31 years has been positive.
“We have enjoyed the small town experience and we have been blessed with great employees,” said Harvey.
Building personal relationships with customers has also been a highlight, said Verna.
“We know everyone and talk to them all the time. It is personal. Most of our customers make us feel needed, wanted and appreciated,” she said.
In the interest of their customers, the Hamiltons decided to work with Ron and Kim Lim at Susanville Family Pharmacy. In this way patient records could be orderly transferred. Also, both will be on hand to assist in filling prescriptions for their customers because the two will split the hours at the pharmacy in Susanville.
The Westwood Pharmacy was on the market for three years with no offers to purchase the business. It became apparent it would not sell for many reasons, said Verna.
For example, when Medicare Part D was implemented 1,100 pharmacies closed their doors across the United States and many that remained in business borrowed around $75,000 in order to have the cash to pay bills. That’s because the new regulations allowed insurance companies to pay six to eight weeks from the date of service while payment to wholesale drug companies was due in two weeks.
The California Pharmacist Association reported around 50 pharmacies have closed in California with most located in rural areas, said Harvey.
Pharmacists are no longer able to negotiate rural contracts with insurance companies, therefore they are stuck with a low paying contract. In more populated areas pharmacies can generate more business to make up the cost but the Lake Almanor region has limited demographics. Although the Westwood Pharmacy sells many products, prescriptions are 92 percent of the business. People who live in the area year-round are the main customer base.
A multitude of regulatory agencies with overlapping rules demand compliance and unlike large corporations small businesses have no one on staff to read through the documents that are hundreds of pages. Regulators can audit a business at any time and if found noncompliant, stiff fines can be levied.
“It is micro, micro management to the point where I don’t know how anyone follows all the little rules they impose but there is no reimbursement for time spent on compliance or to hire someone,” said Verna.
The Hamiltons purchased the Westwood Pharmacy in 1977 and moved to Westwood from the Stockton area. Verna wanted to live in the mountains and she and Harvey thought Westwood would be a good place to raise children. Their two sons, Matt and Dirk, would help out in the pharmacy and one became a pharmacy technician while in high school.
“We could have worked elsewhere and made lots and lots of money but not had much of a family life,” said Verna.
Although prescriptions will no longer be filled at the pharmacy after May 3, the store will hold a clearance sale on all merchandise through May.
Harvey, who owns the building, plans to lease it to another business once all items are sold.
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