The “unhappy and isolated” pharmacist & her $15,000 theft

A pharmacy owner has been reprimanded – but managed to dodge suspension – after failing to advise the Board that she had been found guilty of theft

Back in 2013, the Victorian registered pharmacist in question was a sole trader running five pharmacies, in addition to being the director of an associated company.

Later that year, a receiver appointed to the company notified AHPRA regarding her conduct in relation to stealing stock.

She entered into bankruptcy not long after.

Around March 2014, the pharmacist was charged by Victoria Police for stealing pharmaceutical products up to the value of $15,000 that belonged to the company of which she was director.

She pleaded guilty to the charge in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria, and was sentenced without conviction to good behaviour for 12 months.

This was not the first such finding of guilt against her, having been found guilty in 2006 of theft relating to medication stolen from the pharmacy where she was employed at the time.

However in this most recent case, the pharmacist failed to notify the Pharmacy Board of Australia within seven days of the charges or conviction.

Before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, the Board argued that her conduct amounted to professional misconduct and unprofessional conduct for breaching the code of conduct for pharmacists, which provides that “pharmacists must be ethical and trustworthy and be honest and transparent in financial and commercial matters relating to work”.

The Board also alleged the respondent had encouraged other staff to act dishonestly, and that her conduct was premeditated and organised.

The tribunal agreed with the Board and found that she had engaged in professional misconduct and unprofessional conduct.

While the idea of a three-month suspension was floated by the Board, the tribunal was “not convinced that suspending [the pharmacist’s] registration … would now serve any useful purpose”.

The respondent, who currently operates a compounding business in Hawthorn as the sole proprietor, was discharged from bankruptcy in January this year.

They found that the pharmacist presented as “unhappy and isolated”, and a suspension of her registration may result in her losing clientele; she was under significant stress at the time of the offending, including stress arising from her financial situation.

“She is desperate to rebuild her life and can now see her way ahead,” said the tribunal.

“She has had time to reflect on her conduct and demonstrate[s] a lengthy period without a repeat of it.

“We accept that a three-month suspension would have a devastating impact on [her], effectively ending her practice. It is not the role of disciplinary proceedings to further punish an individual.”

The tribunal ruled against suspension, however the pharmacist was reprimanded with the following conditions imposed upon her registration:

  • That she be mentored by another registered pharmacist in relation to her legal and ethical obligations;
  • That she undertake the PSA course “Ethics and Dispensing in Pharmacy Practice”.

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  1. pagophilus

    Weak board and tribunal. No decent punishment, no deterrent.

    • William

      I totally agree, yet another example of people being molly coddled that I spoke about in another thread.
      No consequences for committing crimes. What a poor country we have become that these tribunals think like this..
      It is a wonder that she was not given five gold stars for only stealing $15,000.
      I thought that Pharmacists we supposed to be professional, but looks as if I was wrong.

  2. Notachemist

    It is very easy to make harsh comments without knowing the full story. These situations are never black and white.

    • pagophilus

      Yep, let’s be non-judgmental and just let everyone do what they want with nothing more than a slap on the wrist for serious crimes. There must be consequences for actions.

      I’d like to see a merging of criminal and civil court action such that someone convicted of a crime would automatically have to provide restitution (e.g. the amount stolen plus interest) without the victim having to mount a separate civil case.

      • Notachemist

        Pagophilus it is not up to us to make a judgement based on what we read in a news report. Lets leave it up to those who are better qualified in this area and who have all the information.

        • pagophilus

          Perhaps not a nice thing to say, but I wish it was you she stole the $15000 from. Perhaps you’d have a different opinion. No, I will not let the ‘better qualified” alone. They are totally out of touch with their employers (us). Perhaps you would like the magisterium to do all the thinking for you and you can just go through life as an automaton?

          • Notachemist

            LOL. If you read the article she was a sole trader and she stole from a company of which she was the director. The theft would also have been covered by insurance. No I am not an automaton but I do place trust in the judiciary to make fair decisions based on the full details of the case. I do not wish to take on that role. Nothing is black and white in this world.

          • Jarrod McMaugh

            Leo, you realise that the issue isn’t about the $15k, but that she didn’t advise the Board of the fact that she had been charged and convicted for this?

            The $15k is incidental to the issue.

            The board wanted a 3 month suspension, so your mild disapproval is aimed directly at VCAT; they rejected that measure as being too punitive. This happens to be the role of VCAT; they determine whether the failure to notify deserves three month suspension (which for a sole trader would require selling all of her pharmacies). I had a friend who had his driver’s licence suspended and lost his AHPRA registration as a result….. I think VCAT is right to say that further punitive action for “failing to notify” is extreme.

            As NotAChemist has pointed out, it’s not black and white. We don’t know if there are further delierations regarding the appropriateness to practice for a person who has had a conviction for theft with a previous history of threft; but in the case of being suspended for not notifying, we do know the outcome.

  3. PharmOwner

    Can someone convicted of theft be considered “ethical and trusthworthy and honest and transparent” as the Board requires?

    • Jarrod McMaugh

      Good question. Keep in mind that this story was about the fact that the pharmacist didn’t notify the board of their conviction. perhaps there will be another deliberation based on the theft itself?

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