Sharp rise in Section 150s

A pharmacist showing up to work drunk, S8s going missing, inappropriate compounding and matters related to fraud are among behaviours that have seen pharmacists face Section 150 hearings

Stuart Ludington, president of the Pharmacy Council of NSW, has warned in its Spring 2018 newsletter of a worrying increase in incidents requiring a Section 150 hearing.

“It’s been a busy time for the Pharmacy Council,” he writes. “The last few months have seen a concerning upward trend in serious complaints being raised.

“These complaints often require the Council’s immediate attention and at times result in the suspension of a pharmacist’s registration to protect the public under Section 150 of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (NSW).

“In August, the Council held eight Section 150 hearings and in September the number was six – this is more than double the number held in previous months.”

Matters that have seen a pharmacist called in front of a Section 150 hearing include:

  • Large amounts of Schedule 8 medicines going missing (in a pharmacy that they work at or own);
  • Showing up to work drunk and falling asleep on the job;
  • Having an unsuitable compounding area or compounding preparations inappropriately;
  • Dispensing inappropriate quantities of Schedule 8 medicines; and
  • Matters relating to fraud.

This can mean a “short hop to suspension,” as this, or having conditions imposed on a pharmacist’s registration, is one potential outcome of such a hearing, the Council says. Section 150 hearings are convened at short notice.

In these cases the pharmacist is offered the opportunity to provide written submissions and in most cases an invitation to attend in person is also extended.

“The decision to hold a Section 150 hearing is not taken lightly,” writes Mr Ludington.

“It has a big impact on a pharmacist and is only instigated when there is a perceived risk to public health and safety.

“However it is also important to understand the need to uphold professional standards and maintain public confidence in the regulated health professions. Pharmacist practitioners must display a standard of behaviour that warrants the trust and respect of the community.

“This includes observing and practising the principles of ethical conduct. It is in this area where the public expectation must be considered during Section 150 hearings.”

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