A local healthcare worker is sharing her story of frustration after being asked to leave a popular drugstore in Geneva on Friday.
Johannah Marchenese opened up to FingerLakes1.com after being asked to leave the Walgreens store on Hamilton Street. The cause? She says for wearing scrubs. She’s a medical assistant at a Geneva urgent care facility and quickly stopped into the store near work on a break around 2 p.m.
“I was working my 12 hour shift [Friday], and a couple of my coworkers decided that we wanted a few things from Walgreens really quick. So, I shot over to Walgreens super quick to just grab a few things that we wanted and then come right back, and I literally walked in the door. I got past the second double doors and the lady at the cash register was like yelling out, “Ma’am” to me. I turned to her and she told me that I needed to find a different store to go to and that I was in my scrubs and I couldn’t be in there,” Marchenese told FingerLakes1.com.
Still dressed in her scrubs, Marchenese explained that she ended-up leaving on her own terms after being asked to leave by a cashier. She works at a nearby urgent care facility.
For Marchenese, the traumatic experience emotionally disrupted her Friday after being scheduled to work a 12-hour shift ahead of the weekend.
“Unfortunately, like it saddened me, and it broke my heart. It was just very disheartening and shocking because here I am a healthcare worker, just continuously going to work every day to provide for those in need and help them on their worst day, and to be treated like that in a public place where I, who is essential as well as her, you know, I’m just trying to work through this as best as possible,” she said.
Despite dealing with this inconvenient situation during the COVID-19 pandemic just right across from the street from where she works, it “doesn’t change the way that she sees Geneva at all,” but certainly changes how she sees her local Walgreens pharmacy from now on.
“I love Geneva and I have a lot of family and friends in Geneva, and it doesn’t change my outlook on Geneva. However, it does change my outlook on that store, only because to be greeted like that by an employee that is the face you see when you walk in the door. To me that speaks volumes,” Marchenese continued.
Going out in public while dressed as a professional is a common ordeal for Marchenese, except without any hassle from other stores, including the Walmart Supercenter in Geneva and Wegmans located in Canandaigua.
“I have stopped at Walmart on my way home from work. If I get out on time I’ll stop at Walmart. I’ve stopped at Wegmans in Canandaigua, but Walmart mostly, and I never had an issue. Never. Nobody’s ever made rude comments. I’ve never not been allowed in the store,” Marchenese added.
Even when Marchenese got back to Urgent Care and shared her story with fellow medical profession coworkers, “They were all furious. Their blood was literally boiling,” she continued.
Shortly after the incident occurred on Friday, Marchenese created a short post on Facebook, which gathered a lot of attention and an apology from the Walgreens corporate office in the form of a comment on social media, or at least eventually.
“Well, they actually reached out to one of my friends on my Facebook. They shared my post and commented about it and said, “I’m sorry to hear about your experience, Robin. I’ll be happy to forward this to leadership to be addressed. Please feel free to send me a private message with more detail, including a number you can be reached if you would like a call back from leadership.” So, I ended up getting tagged and asked to reach out to them because it was my situation,” Marchenese clarified.
While some on social media called for this unnamed employee’s termination from the chain store, she still questions if that’s even the right decision.
“I’ve never been the boss. I don’t really know, but I definitely think that disciplinary actions need to take place because it’s not right, and to be completely honest with you, if you’re not comfortable working at a time like this, and having to face the general public with all of this virus stuff going on, then, unfortunately, maybe you should try to find something when it’s all over and remain home and collect unemployment like everybody else who’s actually lost their jobs due to this pandemic,” Marchenese continued.
Still, at the same time, Marchenese considers that consequences are in-fact necessary, especially in a service-based industry amid a global pandemic.
“I’ve heard from different Walgreens managers from different locations and different Walgreens employees from different locations that that is not what Walgreens is about, and that they don’t stand for it. However, clearly, she, the cashier misunderstands that memo, and really, if you’re going to treat essential workers like that, or even people in general like that, you have no business being the front face of a business like that,” she said.
Marchenese says she feels like she was discriminated against.
“For me, no. I am not planning to do anything legal at this point, but like I said, if this ever were to happen to another healthcare worker somewhere around the world, I can’t guarantee that they will,” she stated.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, healthcare professionals are now more visible than ever. While a lot of folks heap praise on frontline workers, Marchenese says she doesn’t always feel that way stepping out in public.
“I mean, honestly, the way that society is looking at healthcare workers with the dirty looks and the glares, acting like as if we have the plague when we walk around places, it’s getting ridiculous and out of hand because if there’s one profession right now, that knows how to stop this virus or prevent this from spreading even more: it’s healthcare workers,” Marchenese said.
She says healthcare workers aren’t shown the respect that their collective profession rightfully deserves. Especially considering the type of precautions Marchenese and others in healthcare routinely practice each day to prevent the spread of COVID-19 whether they’re at work, or in their homes.
“We’re taught the proper way to wash our hands. We’re taught the proper way to cleanse ourselves and not spread it around and cross contaminate. We’re the ones that wash our hands a million times a day. We’re the ones that have dry spots and cracks in our hands from so much hand sanitizer and so much antibacterial soap. We’re the ones that are stripping outside of our doors when we get home to not bring it into our families,” she elaborated.
Every time when Marchenese comes home from a work shift at Urgent Care, she stands outside her house, removing her scrubs before entering.
“I get home from work and I step outside and put all my stuff in a trash bag before I even walk into the house, and immediately go to the shower,” she explained.
These steps may seem excessive, but undeniably necessary in the fight against COVID-19 in communities throughout the Finger Lakes, and for Marchenese, until everyone takes this pandemic seriously, she promises that healthcare workers will stay united until the very end.
“All of us healthcare workers are in it together and we’ll continue to fight the fight, and we won’t give up and we won’t back down,” she concluded.