A pharmacist hid his suspension from his pregnant wife and kept working after he was found to be misappropriating, and inappropriately ordering and selling, diabetes test strips
A hearing of the Civil and Administrative Tribunal NSW heard that the pharmacist had been employed on a casual basis by a pharmacy in Sydney’s greater west, between February 2018 and April 2019, when his employment was terminated.
This happened after his employer found that he had taken stock from the pharmacy – namely, diabetic blood glucose testing strips – on around 20 occasions.
He also inappropriately ordered strips through this and another pharmacy, using the NDSS registration number of patients.
The pharmacist said he had begun buying glucose testing strips for people who were not registered under the NDSS scheme.
People who lived overseas had noticed that it was cheaper to buy these in Australia than in their home countries, he said, and so he bought the strips on their behalf, fraudulently using the registration of a person already registered under NDSS.
He said that while he had supplied some of this product, he denied doing so for a profit.
“He said that he did not initially think that he was defrauding anyone by this conduct, but realised that he was in fact defrauding the scheme by acquiring subsidised product using the name of a registered person, which product he intended to provide to persons who were not registered,” the Tribunal noted.
He was also employed at another pharmacy during and after this period, as a locum.
The pharmacist’s registration was suspended in May 2019 by the Pharmacy Council of NSW, as it was determined that he could pose a risk to the health or safety of the general public.
But between May and August 2019, the pharmacist continued to work, doing so on 31 occasions in a Penrith pharmacy. He invoiced this employer from the same email address he used while trading on Amazon Australia as BeanPharmaAus, trading general and other pharmaceutical products as well as the glucose testing strips.
After he lost his job at the first pharmacy, he again engaged in this activity while working for another pharmacy so that he could complete an outstanding order for a family overseas.
This time, he used the details of a pharmacy assistant with diabetes who was registered under the scheme.
When asked why he had worked while suspended, he said he was “in shock and disbelief” at the decision.
“I was not sure what I was to do,” he said, when asked to explain.
“No one I knew had experienced this before so I didn’t have anyone to turn to for emotional support. I had not even told my wife of the initial complaint, only that I had lost my job… back in April.”
His wife was three months pregnant at the time, and concerned about the financial implications of not being able to work as a pharmacist, he said he made a “reprehensible” decision not to tell her, and to keep working at the Penrith store.
The Tribunal noted that Australia Post data showed the pharmacist had sent 17 packages overseas between February 2019 and May 2019, either in his name, or in the name of his trading entity, BeanPharmaAus.
He also agreed in evidence that he had supplied about 20 packages of the product which had been obtained using details of persons who were NDSS registrants.
“The respondent did concede in the course of that hearing that he had used the NDSS registration details of two registrants on four occasions without their knowledge or consent in order to obtain the product at the discounted price.”
The Tribunal was satisfied that the complaint around the test strips was proven.
It also found that he had made false or misleading statements around this conduct.
It found him guilty of professional misconduct.
The Tribunal noted that the pharmacist had never participated in the proceedings, and did not file any evidence, or participate in the hearing.
He had previously retained solicitors who told the Tribunal that they no longer represented him, and that he no longer wished to be registered as a pharmacist.
“He failed to display qualities of integrity, truthfulness, and dependability as required by the Code,” it said.
“He breached the confidentiality of those clients of the pharmacies who were NDSS registrants.
“We have no hesitation in concluding that the misconduct of the respondent which we have found to have occurred is significantly below the standard expected of any pharmacist, including a pharmacist of an equivalent level of training and experience of the respondent in terms of his lack of knowledge, skill and judgment and the lack of care exercised by him.”
It cancelled the pharmacist’s registration.
The Tribunal said that should he change his mind about not practising again, he will not be able to reapply for review of the decision for four years, “to allow him to engage in an appropriate reflective process and demonstrate fitness and suitability to again be registered as a pharmacist”.
The pharmacist was also ordered to pay the Health Care Complaints Commission’s costs.