By Mary O’KEEFE
On April 30, the long-established pharmacy at 1806 and 1818 Verdugo Road, part of the USC Verdugo Hills Hospital, changed hands from VHH to USC School of Medicine.
“The USC Verdugo Hills Hospital decided they wanted to get out of the retail pharmacy business so they sold this pharmacy and the USC School of Pharmacy. The two have been combined,” said Doug Anderson, longtime pharmacist at VHH.
Anderson had been at the pharmacy at 1806 for 11 years but has been working as a pharmacist in the Crescenta Valley area since 1970.
It was an emotional goodbye for Anderson and his staff as customer after customer came into the pharmacy on April 30 – some to say goodbye, others to share how shocked they were at the departure of Anderson and some who were surprised the pharmacy was changing.
“We were given termination notices and given the option to reapply,” Anderson said. “I did not feel like I wanted to apply. It was not a very warm termination.”
The notice to the staff was given on March 9. One employee at 1806 and one at 1818 stayed; the rest left for various reasons including taking early retirement – like Anderson.
CVW reported in March of the impending closure. At that time, the hospital administration confirmed that some changes were underway.
“As part of an overall restructuring of the USC Health System, a recent reduction in force included 24 staff positions which were eliminated at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital. These workforce reductions included administrative and ambulatory clinical positions. The restructuring will include the medical office building pharmacies which will soon be managed by the USC School of Pharmacy,” stated Paul Craig, interim CEO USC VHH.
To Anderson, the closure is less about business and more about the personal relationships he has made over the years. Prior to working at the hospital he worked at Austin Drugs, a pharmacy that was along Honolulu Avenue.
“I was able to purchase [Austin Drugs] in 1983 and operated it until 2003 when I sold it,” Anderson said.
He stayed on as an employee at Austin Drugs for two years then moved briefly to a pharmacy out of the area, but returned to VHH after the pharmacist there retired.
He knows his customers, their kids and their kids’ kids. It was an old fashioned pharmacy where employees remember what drugs customers have been prescribed in the past, not depending only on computer accounts but also on personal relationships.
“Unfortunately the problem now is people seem to go to a larger store,” Anderson said. “It’s a change in shopping patterns.”
But for those many, many customers who came to say a tearful goodbye the thought of a big pharmacy never crossed their minds.
“I am going to miss the customers,” Anderson said. “I wasn’t ready to retire… It is an emotional time. I always thought the only way I would [leave here] is if they kicked me out like this or carried me out on a stretcher.”