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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