An intern pharmacist who raped a customer has had his provisional registration cancelled, and been barred from reapplying for registration for four years.
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal heard that Kuang King Tan had been convicted of rape in 2014 and sentenced to six months’ imprisonment and a three-year Community Corrections Order.
In May 2014, a doctor – referred to as Doctor A by the Tribunal – notified AHPRA about Tan’s behaviour, which included not just the sexual assault, but also Tan’s attempts to discourage Dr A from reporting his conduct. This was soon followed by a notification from a Ms B, a registered pharmacist.
The Tribunal heard that the victim, a 22-year-old woman, had been to see a doctor in the medical centre next door to the pharmacy, about rashes on her stomach, lower back and groin area. She had been given a prescription for steroid tablets, an ointment and a strong moisturiser.
She then went to the pharmacy and handed the scripts to Tan.
He dispensed the tablets and moisturiser, but said the ointment would have to be ordered, and that the customer would need to return the next day to pick it up. He asked to see her rashes, but she refused and left the store.
When she arrived the next day, Tan beckoned the patient into a small office area behind the dispensary and again asked to see the rashes.
The patient showed him the rashes on her stomach and back, after which Tran digitally raped her.
Two days later, Dr A reported Tan to AHPRA and a few days later, the victim reported him to police.
Victoria Police contacted Tan and made an appointment to interview him the next morning.
Tan then booked a one-way ticket to Malaysia and went to Melbourne Airport, where he was arrested by the Australian Federal Police.
He pled guilty to a charge of rape.
However, he also failed to give the Pharmacy Board the required notice that he had been charged with an offence punishable by 12 months’ imprisonment or more.
“The facts disclose a gross and substantial breach of trust,” the Tribunal noted.
“The patient was young and Mr Tan used his trusted position to commit the offence. There was an enormous power imbalance between Mr Tan and his patient. It is clear from the facts that the patient, whilst knowing the conduct was wrong, was completely disempowered to do anything about it.
“Mr Tan knowingly exploited that power imbalance. He did so for his own sexual gratification, opportunistically taking advantage of his role as a pharmacist. The impact on the victim has been significant. She was violated and humiliated and suffered significant psychological distress as a result of the rape.
“To make matters worse, following the incident, Mr Tan, moved into self-preservation mode. He initially told Victoria Police that his role as a pharmacist permitted him to examine the breasts, buttocks and genitalia of female patients.
“He attempted to leave the country. He attempted to persuade others not to notify the Board.
“Mr Tan also failed to report the charges and subsequent conviction to the Board. Although he told us, that he was not aware at the time that he had an obligation to notify the Board, this does not assist his position.
“He should have known. It is essential that all practitioners make themselves aware of their obligations under the law and the code of conduct applicable for that profession.
“The Board plays a critical role in regulating the profession and protecting the public. It relies on registered health practitioners self-reporting relevant matters in order to protect the public and maintain professional standards.”
The Tribunal noted that Tan’s behaviour had brought the pharmacy profession into disrepute and was “demonstrably and unassailably” inconsistent with being a fit and proper person to hold registration in the profession.
He was disqualified from reapplying for registration for four years.
However while he has yet to undergo the sex offender treatment program expected, the Tribunal said that if he can be rehabilitated and return to the profession safely, it is in the public interest that he be able to do so.
Tan had sought orders suppressing his identity but these were not granted by the Tribunal.
“We agreed with the submissions of the Board, that it is in the interests of justice that the identity of health practitioners against whom disciplinary findings and determinations are to be made is readily ascertained,” the Tribunal noted.
“Health practitioners are in a trusted position in our community and it is important that the community knows if an individual has had disciplinary findings against them.”