Proprietor pharmacists cannot delegate professional obligations: PDL

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Some interstate pharmacy owners have never visited their businesses, PDL warns

In its latest practice alert, PDL says that several incidents reported to it in recent months have exposed some deficiencies occurring in pharmacies around the country.

These pertain to credential checking, making sure pharmacies can keep in touch with patients on opioid substitution therapy, absentee owners and oversight of how a pharmacy business is conducted.

Checking credentials

“One issue that has emerged is that some proprietors have failed to check the assumed credentials of a pharmacist employed by them,” it warns.

“In one case, a proprietor employed a pharmacist who was not actually qualified and registered with AHPRA.

“This oversight will have serious ramifications with the pharmacy regulators and could jeopardise the pharmacy’s professional indemnity insurance.”

PDL says that when employing pharmacists, proprietors need to request registration details and check the AHPRA register to ensure there are no conditions imposed on the pharmacist’s registration which could affect their employment.

The same checks are required for proprietors engaging AACP accredited pharmacists or accredited Diabetes Educators.

Another area where both proprietors and employed pharmacists need to be aware of the requirements in their jurisdiction is pharmacist vaccination.

“Most jurisdictions require vaccinators to regularly update their first aid and CPR training.

“It is prudent that proprietors request proof of this before they allow pharmacists to immunise in their workplace.”

Keep in touch

Another serious deficiency in some pharmacies relates to the lack of current contact details of clients receiving opioid replacement therapy, PDL warns.

“This was demonstrated recently when a locum pharmacist accidentally provided methadone takeaways that were twice the correct dose.

“This pharmacist desperately tried to contact the client to remedy the situation by using the phone number and address listed in the pharmacy records.

“It eventuated that these details were two years out of date and the client was only found with the help of the local police in the middle of the night.”

PDL points out that as it is common for patients who are on opioid replacement therapy to change address and phone numbers regularly, pharmacy proprietors must ensure that their clients’ details are regularly checked and updated.

“One pharmacy went as far as refusing to dose their clients without firstly checking current contact points in case of an emergency arising such as the one mentioned above,” PDL observes.

“Having up to date records of customers applies to all pharmacies irrespective or whether ORT is supplied.”

Absentee owners

PDL also warns that scenarios have risen where interstate owners have never visited their pharmacies.

This is “problematic,” it says.

“A proprietor is advised to visit the premises regularly where possible and maintain open lines of communication with employee pharmacists.

“This will help ensure consistent dispensing patterns, to reinforce to staff the importance of appropriate counselling and about the appropriate dispensing practices, supervision, storage of S3s behind counter, appropriate checking of out of date stock and general training of staff in pharmacy procedures.”

Complaints and notifications do not just bring action against the individual pharmacist in charge, or involved in the dispensing, but also against proprietors, it points out.

“Stern action is being taken against proprietors because they have the legal and professional obligation.”

Active interest

On that note, PDL also highlighted the regulatory requirement for proprietors to have oversight into all aspects of any business they may have an interest in.

It cites the Board’s Guidelines, which state that proprietors maintain an active interest in how the pharmacy business is conducted and proprietor pharmacists cannot delegate their professional obligations.

PDL outlined a recent case which “clearly demonstrated” this need.

In this pharmacy, a large amount of S8 drugs were diverted by an employed pharmacist.

“Although the proprietor was not directly involved with the business at the time of the thefts, the regulator imposed conditions on their registration as it was considered that oversight of the pharmacy must have been inadequate for this diversion to occur.”

One method for proprietors to maintain oversight of a pharmacy would be to require the pharmacist in charge to provide regular reports on the audits of the S8 inventory, PDL suggests.

“Had this been done in the case mentioned above, the problem may have been prevented or detected much sooner.

“It is important proprietors are checking off that the pharmacy business professional and ethical requirements are being satisfied.”

PDL members can contact it on 1300 854 838. PDL membership includes 24/7 access to speak with a Professional Officer for immediate advice and incident support, Australia wide.

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  1. Karalyn Huxhagen

    As a locum I visit pharmacies with absent owners fairly regularly. Some are being held together by loyal staff with no pharmacy qualifications; some are managed from above and afar by people with no pharmacy qualifications and some are hanging together by tenacious threads.

    The normal issues of poor stock control, non payment of creditors so no stock to sell and no procedures in place so you have no idea who to ring for emergencies is one problem but there are more severe problems that really make me question when do I report to the Board.

    for example 100’s of owing Rxs for DAAs , many of which are controlled drugs or drugs of addiction e.g. BZDs. as a locum you can refuse to do this during your stint but that does not fix the overall issue.

    Owners do not return calls and you deal with mid line managers who have no phcy background in fact they have no health background.

    This is not in any one state -I see it on my locum journey. I document, I write to the owners – never hear back. I delete these pharmacies from my list of locum sites but there is a bigger picture problem. Where is the reporting line for poor business practice? Sometimes it is not professional misconduct it is business management misconduct bringing the phcy into disrepute

    I do not know the answer nor do I know who you go to. It is like these groups buy up these small phcies going for a song and then ravage them to death with poor practices that live just inside the law.

    Houston we have a problem in Aus in controlling these groups of owners who have little regard for the ethics and professional practice of pharmacy.Their business management practices make Gordon Geckgo look like a saint on Wall Street

    • Paul Sapardanis

      Thank-you for such an interesting post on your experiences Karalyn. What I am understanding from your post id that there is a failure from our regulators as well. How they are still allowed to trade is a question that needsto be asked.

  2. Apotheke

    The AJP ran a poll a while ago asking Pharmacists if they thought it was a good idea for owners to work in their Pharmacies and for how many hours p.a. The vast majority agreed that owners should work in their Pharmacies from a minimum of 300 hours p.a upwards. This is a matter for regulation by AHPRA. The Pharmacy Board needs to get serious about maintaining professional standards, safe working environments and oversight by owners.

  3. Paul Sapardanis

    Owners who have never visited their pharmacies!!! What a joke. Why bother with ownership rules then

    • Tony Lee


    • Karalyn Huxhagen

      Begs the question? As a locum I encounter some very shonky practices. I try to contact the owner to discuss issues but my calls are not answered. There is always a middle layer of group managers, HR , financial controllers erc. When you encounter these pharmacies you document all issues, write letters to head office and never lovum there again. BUT when should I notify PDL? How nad does it have to be? Shoddy business practices such as poor stock control and not paying suppliers is one problem but 100’s of owing Rxs for DAA patients including CDs is a significant other problem. Sadly the shoddy and shonky in the absent owner area is an evolving issue we need to take a tighter grip on.

  4. Michael Post

    As long as pharmacy ownership is utilised by large numbers of absentee owners as passive investment/s public health will suffer and capable pharmacists locked out of serving their communities with the prestige and satisfaction that ownership brings will continue to leave the profession.

    George Tambassis and the Guild are not concerned with issues such as this that are not in the spirit of location rules. Why? Could it be that many Guild exec are passive investors ?

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