Pharmacist Ben Okafor (right) helps a customer at a pharmacy in Eastport in this 2016 file photo. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Pharmacists in Maine say they’re overworked, understaffed and juggling too many tasks, and they took their case before a legislative committee Thursday.

Maine pharmacists say COVID-19 exposed existing staffing challenges, stress and burnout and made them worse.

Two retired pharmacists took the lead in testifying before state lawmakers in support of a   resolve, introduced by state Rep. Kevin O’Connell, D-Brewer. It would require a review by the Maine Board of Pharmacy into pharmacists’ work practices and of how they’re treated.

Gary Manzo, a pharmacist for more than four decades who retired two years ago, said he he worked at one Maine pharmacy for several years by himself.

“I would be waiting on the customer, the phone would ring. I’m on the phone with the doctor, and I got [another} customer at the register. You’re literally trying to balance and do everything,” he said. “Then COVID came along, and we’re trying to run out those vaccines with lot numbers and insurance issues, and not to mention those are all things you’re trying to do while you’re trying to take care of the patients.”

Manzo said now that he’s retired, he wanted to speak out on behalf of his former colleagues. Some current pharmacists wanted to testify but were afraid of retribution from corporate owners, he added.

A representative from the Maine Board of Pharmacy said the panel doesn’t have the time or staff to conduct a proposed study.

This story appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly spelled Gary Manzo’s last name.