Target pharmacists seek protection as Wal-Mart secures patient records, Marina Strauss

“We’re the illegitimate child,” said Stavros (Steve) Gavrilidis, a Target pharmacist in Windsor, Ont., and secretary of the Pharmacy Franchisee Association of Canada. “We want to be recognized” in Target’s bankruptcy protection process.

The Globe and Mail
February 2, 2015

Target pharmacists seek protection as Wal-Mart secures patient records
Marina Strauss


Target’s franchised pharmacists are owed hundreds of thousands of dollars.(Tim Fraser For The Globe and Mail)

Wal-Mart Canada Corp. has moved quickly to acquire some pharmacy patient records of insolvent Target Canada, even as its franchised pharmacists gear up for a fight.

Already last week, Target transferred the patient records at its three corporately owned pharmacies to Wal-Mart, according to a court filing.

But representatives for Target Canada’s other pharmacists, who are franchised and are in the vast majority of the retailer’s 133 stores, will ask the court soon to set up a fund for them similar to the one it created for its 17,600 employees, who are all being let go.

Owed hundreds of thousands of dollars, the franchised pharmacists say Target should let them stay in their stores beyond the end of February, when they are being told to leave.

“We’re the illegitimate child,” said Stavros (Steve) Gavrilidis, a Target pharmacist in Windsor, Ont., and secretary of the Pharmacy Franchisee Association of Canada. “We want to be recognized” in Target’s bankruptcy protection process.

The jockeying between pharmacists and Target comes as the U.S. discounter winds down its operations here after having sunk $7-billion in them. It got court protection from its creditors on Jan. 15, less than two years after its launch here, and will close all 133 stores by May 15, although many are expected to close sooner.

Liquidation sales could start as early as Thursday, a court filing says.

While creditors are lining up to nab Target’s remaining assets, the franchised pharmacists have the added burden of debts from having invested in their drugstore rollouts. They hired their own staff and bought inventory – and now they need to sell their patient records to other pharmacies.

On Friday, Target Canada mistakenly posted on its pharmacists’ websites a notice that their patient files were being transferred to Wal-Mart, said Dan Dimovski, co-owner of the Target Windsor pharmacy and president of the pharmacists’ association. The posting was removed several hours later but caused much uncertainty and stress among Target’s pharmacists, he said.

Wal-mart spokesman Alex Roberton confirmed it had acquired the patient records of just the three corporate Target pharmacies. He did not disclose the purchase amount nor whether Wal-Mart is looking at acquiring patient records from other Target pharmacists.

Target pharmacists are being approached by brokers representing “national chains” about their interest in selling their files, said Charlie Scerbo, a Target pharmacist in Winnipeg and association vice-president.

“They’re all hovering around,” he said. “We’re like a carcass.” Some pharmacists feel they’re being forced to sell “at a distressed price,” Mr. Gavrilidis said.

Among other chains believed to be interested in picking up some of the patient lists are Loblaw, Shoppers Drug Mart and Rexall.

“There’s no orderly process for us to unwind our business and sell our files,” Mr. Scerbo said.

On Wednesday, Target will ask the court to extend its protection from creditors for another three months, until May 15. Target is also ready to increase its fund for its employees to $90-million from $70-million, it says in court filings.

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