‘This is clearly going to be a hotly contested case.’

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The Pharmacy Guild of Australia vs Ramsay Health Care legal battle has started with one group accusing the other of abuse of process

Representatives for the Pharmacy Guild of Australia and Ramsay Health Care fronted the Supreme Court of NSW for a hearing on Wednesday, after the Guild announced it had launched legal proceedings against the healthcare group in September.

The action was brought by the Guild and three other plaintiffs—who are pharmacist members of the organisation—against Ramsay Health Care, Ramsay Pharmacy Retail Services and two other related defendants, to seek clarity over ownership of Ramsay-branded pharmacies.

AJP can reveal that the Guild’s co-plaintiffs include Priceline Pharmacy Nowra, Southside Pharmacy and Masen’s Pharmacy, and Coady’s Pharmacy, all based in NSW.

The plaintiffs are seeking a declaration that Ramsay Health Care and/or Ramsay Pharmacy Retail Services hold a financial interest in five specific Ramsay-branded pharmacies (owned by the third and fourth defendants).

“The action taken in the NSW Supreme Court is to test the application of the pharmacy ownership section of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (NSW) in relation to certain recent pharmacy ownership transactions,” explained the Guild in a statement to the AJP.

“The purpose is to test whether these transactions comply with the law in NSW, in particular, provisions in relation to who may have a financial interest in a pharmacy.”

Meanwhile Ramsay Pharmacy CEO Peter Giannopoulos said in a statement the Ramsay Pharmacy Group would “vigorously defend any action brought by the Guild”.

This week Ramsay’s legal team argued before NSW Supreme Court Registrar Leonie Walton, of the Equity Division, that the Pharmacy Guild is in an “unusual position” in that it does not have a financial interest in the matters.

Based on this, Ramsay counsel argued that the Guild and its co-plaintiffs did not have a basis for the motion.

Ramsay also took issue with documents reportedly possessed by the Guild.

“What isn’t made clear is there’s been a series of events in other jurisdictions where [the plaintiffs have] come into possession of documents similar to what they now seek [for early disclosure], that they may be using inappropriately to push these proceedings,” stated Ramsay counsel.

The Ramsay team called for a strike out as to “abuse of process” related to these documents, and additionally called for the matter to be heard in a special fixture hearing and for the Guild to file a statement of claim.

“We think it’s important as to the standing issue to tease out whether there has been inappropriate use of material,” said Ramsay counsel.

“This will help to crystallise the factual matters [in dispute].”

The plaintiffs disputed all the imputations made by the Ramsay team.

“This is an appropriate matter to be commenced by summons. We anticipate that our evidence will commence based on documents from the defendants or what is already in the public domain,” said Guild counsel, rejecting Ramsay’s suggestion of a special fixture hearing.

They said their use of documents was “appropriate”.

Ramsay counsel was referring to “Freedom of Information (FOI) material provided in WA,” explained Guild counsel.

“‘Abuse of process’ is a very serious claim,” they said.

“The key documents in the case are solely within the knowledge of the defendants and wouldn’t take them by surprise. This leaves us asking why using FOI documents is seen as an abuse of process.

“It would be inappropriate to order us to file a statement of claim when we have filed documents using the correct process.”

The registrar agreed that the case would go ahead, but responded that the situation would require a deeper look into the debated issues.

“This is clearly a case where it’s going to be hotly contested on all issues,” found Ms Walton.

“I am of the view that a claim is warranted in these circumstances,” she said.

“I do agree the best way to crystallise … and clarify these issues down the track … is to order a statement of claim,” said Ms Walton, making the order.

The motion was listed for further hearing on 29 April 2019, with an interim hearing scheduled for 7 November this year.

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  1. Willy the chemist

    Is this not the job of the appropriate State Pharmacy Authorities to satisfy beyond a doubt the ownership of pharmacies? Where are they?
    Why is this now left to The Guild and individual pharmacists to take Ramsay Health to court to prove it’s not breaching ownership laws?

    Oh where are you State Pharmacy Authorities?

    • Gavin Mingay

      We don’t have a state authority here in Queensland…

    • Paige

      A legal precedent will be set here either way. If Ramsay lose all pharmacists countrywide better make sure they own their pharmacy 100% outright with no debt or cashflow support from parents, relatives, banner groups or even banks.

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