OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – With big pharmacy walkouts happening all around the country, Midtown Drug is open for business in Oklahoma City.

“Who’s doing the flu shots, who’s doing the consultations, who’s helping the doctors figure what’s going to get covered on the insurance or helping the patient? It’s just a lot of things that’s causing a lot of stress on the pharmacy workflow,” said Dr. Phong Hoang, PHARMD.

Hoang is lead pharmacist and owner of Midtown Drug in Oklahoma City.

Midtown Drug; Photo: KFOR

“My dad passed away in 2008 from a major stroke. That motivated me to open my own pharmacy then,” he said.

This is his second time around as a pharmacy owner and manager.

He stepped away from that business after also losing his mom to cancer, telling KFOR in an interview Wednesday that in that time, the industry environment has changed.

“I’m seeing burnout and pressure to do more because it’s all about quantity and how do you make up for lost profits?,” he added.

Hoang said the added focus elsewhere takes away from time he’d rather spend with patients.

“I’m not spending time with the patient, to counsel them, to truly help them with their healthcare,” he added.

To help address a squeeze and also stay involved in the community, Hoang works with pharmacy interns on a regular basis.

“I input electronic prescriptions that come in, I do most of the checking out [of patients], [prescription] fill check before it goes back to the pharmacist for the final verification…it gives me good practice for when I’m a pharmacist,” said Jackson Beach, a fourth year pharmacy student at Southwestern Oklahoma State University.

“Soaking up and learning as much as I can,” he added.

In addition to assisting with day-to-day needs in the store, Beach said the opportunity with Midtown Drug has allowed him to shadow Hoang closely in customer service, community involvement while gaining practical experience as he works towards becoming an independent pharmacy owner, in the future.

“In two more months I’ll be a board certified pharmacist, fingers crossed,” he added.

While the headlines emphasize several problems forcing pharmacies to either close or limit their offerings, pharmacist Ryan Huddleston from the Oklahoma Pharmacists Association also points to lower reimbursements and rising costs.

“In a lot of instances a pharmacy is not even reimbursed for a cost of goods,” said Huddleston, while adding that it impacts independent pharmacies and chain stores in Oklahoma.

There are roughly 800 across the state:

“Can an independent pharmacy stay in business or not? On the chain side [it has] manifested itself as being understaffed, having to work longer hours,” he added.

While the industry works towards long term solution, Dr. Hoang is staying on mission in Midtown.

“The mission is now to help people live longer than both my parents,” he said.

The Oklahoma Pharmacists Association says they’ve participated in national meetings to get more perspective on what’s going on in the industry, and they’re working on strategies to address problems specific to the state.