Long Beach Memorial is closing its outpatient pharmacy and laying off staff at the facility, the hospital announced internally earlier this month.

The pharmacy, located inside the hospital’s main lobby, is set to close Feb. 2, but most staff has already been let go, and it has stopped distributing medications to patients, according to a former employee familiar with the closure.

The hospital says it made the decision because 70% of patients went elsewhere to fill prescriptions.

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“Of the small number of hospital patients who do fill their prescriptions at our lobby pharmacy, nearly all of them typically do so only initially, and then go elsewhere for any refills,” hospital spokesperson Richele Steele said. “As we continue to focus on optimizing hospital operations and the services that our communities most need and desire, we recognize that the retail pharmacy industry has evolved into one that is fiercely competitive, with many other convenient and cost-effective options available to our patients.”

The outpatient pharmacy mostly served patients as they were being discharged from the hospital after surgery or other visits. Staff would reach out to insurance companies for prior authorization and get patients set up with new prescriptions, often with drugs not available at retail pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens, according to a former worker, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation.

Outpatient pharmacy staff also did compounding (the process of combining, mixing or altering medications), tailoring medications for patients with special needs, the worker said, including children and people with cancer.

Steele said the closure will not affect the hospital’s specialty pharmacy, the Children’s Village pharmacy or the infusion care pharmacy, all of which remain open. She also said staff is available to help discharged patients order and fill prescriptions at “nearby pharmacies or at the patient’s preferred neighborhood pharmacy.”

The hospital remains committed to “achieving the highest performance and quality standards,” Steele said.

The worker, who spoke with the Business Journal on the condition of anonymity, said 13 full-time staffers were notified of the closure on Jan. 8 and most were laid off on the spot.

The former worker said doctors were not immediately informed of the closure and only became aware when they were unable to submit a prescription for patients. The worker also accused the hospital of lying to nurses, saying pharmacy staff were offered different positions, which was not the case.

Steele confirmed workers were informed on Jan. 8 but did not address the allegation that doctors were uninformed or that nurses were misled.

“We are continuing to provide transitional and other services to assist and support them,” Steele said. “We are very grateful for the services that these employees have provided to our patients and communities.”