$18k bill for regulator’s costs


tribunal hearing legal case

An unemployed pharmacist has said his pharmacies “deteriorated into unviable businesses” while his registration was suspended, hoping to pay reduced legal costs

The Civil and Administrative Tribunal NSW has made a decision regarding whether Sydney pharmacist David Le should pay the Health Care Complaints Commission’s costs after complaints against him were heard.

Earlier this year Mr Le’s case was heard and all complaints, bar two particulars, were established.

Mr Le’s registration had been suspended in August 2017, after it was discovered that more than 5,700 packs of pseudoephedrine had not been accounted for at one of his pharmacies, between 12 August 2014 and 12 August 2016.

For a year after the 2017 suspension of his registration, Mr Le continued to go to work as a pharmacist, both managing and working at the Sydney City Pharmacy.

He had been warned by a Pharmacy Council inspector not to keep doing this in April 2018, but continued to do so anyway, failing to tell his staff that he was not a registered pharmacist.

He said this happened because there were issues around locums being late or away, and his concerns about leaving the shop unattended.

For this, he had been convicted and fined $24,500.

In late July 2021, the Tribunal published a decision cancelling Mr Le’s registration for two years as a result of this conviction.

Since then, the HCCC sought an order that Mr Le pay it a fixed sum costs order of $18,000.

It said this was a “reasonable” sum given its costs in the matter had exceeded $20,700.

Mr Le made his own submission, in which he said that “he is currently unemployed, and has been for the last four years while his registration has been suspended”.

“In that time his pharmacies have deteriorated into unviable businesses,” the Tribunal noted.

“He has one pharmacy left which he cannot immediately sell due to an ongoing court matter which has gone on for two years.

“He is incurring losses of around $30,000 per month, and owes $67,000 rent for that pharmacy.”

Mr Le also submitted that his wife is seriously ill.

He said he was “destitute” and “relying on living with his mother in law”.

He also said he was “extremely depressed” and could not pay the $18,000 the HCCC wanted, but offered a smaller sum, which he said he would have to borrow.

While the Tribunal decided that the HCCC’s statements of principle were correct, it declined to make the fixed sum costs order as it had asked.

It noted that Mr Le had offered to pay a significant sum, and that given the pharmacist’s circumstances, the $18,000 sought was a large amount of money for him.

Instead, it ordered Mr Le to pay the HCCC’s costs as agreed or as assessed.

 

 

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