It's getting harder to hire a hospital pharmacist in Massachusetts. Same goes for pharmacy technicians.
For the second straight year, the vacancy rate for pharmacist positions in acute-care hospitals topped 9%, according to an annual survey of allied health profession vacancies by the Massachusetts Hospital Association.
Vacancies for pharmacy technicians more than doubled in 1999, to 7.7%, from 3.5% in 1998.
The shortages aren't likely to abate, said Susan Hancox, vice president of administration and human resources at Children's Hospital in Boston. "There have not been enough pharmacists around in the country," and there's a particular shortage throughout the Northeast, she said.
Competition for the available pharmacists has risen with the change from community pharmacies to drugstore chains, Hancox said. Hospitals have had to compete against higher-paying positions and extras such as stock options offered by the chains.
But other allied health positions are getting tougher to fill, too. The pharmacy shortage "is just the leader of the parade," she said. For example, the vacancy rates for radiologic technicians and medical records coders were 6.6% each in 1999.
Other positions, however, tightened up considerably. Physical therapists had only a 1.5% vacancy rate, compared with 8.7% in 1998, and respiratory therapists had a 2.1% vacancy rate, compared with 6.5% a year earlier.
"It could have been just a lucky year," said Hancox. "We're not deciding to rest (on therapist recruiting), because I don't think that's going to lighten up."
The survey, in its 12th year, polled 45 acute-care hospitals. Notably missing were the major academic medical centers in Boston, including Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and New England Medical Center.
Those hospitals participate in their own vacancy survey involving teaching institutions throughout New England, an MHA spokeswoman said.