World news wrapup: 13 September 2018

Jessica Patel. Image: Jessica Patel via Facebook.

‘Disappointing’ reaction to Canadian snooping case; Kiwi pharmacist smuggled out of Zambia; British man denies murder of pharmacist wife

Nova Scotia, Canada: Nova Scotia’s privacy commissioner has criticised the Health Department’s response to a case in which a pharmacist snooped into health records and shared what she found.

Earlier this year Catherine Tully, the privacy commissioner for the province, began investigating pharmacist Robyn Keddy.

She determined that Ms Keddy, who had been employed as the manager of a rural community pharmacy operated by the Sobeys group, had inappropriately accessed the electronic health information of 46 individuals over two years.

These people included her child’s friends, teachers and romantic partner, colleagues at the pharmacy and a person with whom she had been involved in a car accident.

Ms Keddy spoke to her spouse and colleagues about her findings regarding medical history and attempted to fabricate reasons for the access.

Ms Tully has told CBC News that the Health Department’s reaction to her findings has been “very disappointing”.

She has made three attempts to meet and discuss her report and its recommendations, but officials have refused to meet her, she says.

“They haven’t accepted some of the major recommendations and my view is that it means that the risks that we’ve identified with respect to snooping have not been adequately mitigated by the department,” she said.

The Department has denied Ms Tully’s claims and says it is making “positive changes” resulting from the recommendations.


Zambia: A pharmacist working in a remote area of Zambia had to be smuggled out of the country by New Zealand government officials, reports Star Kiwi.

Geoff Stark, from Christchurch, worked as an interim hospital administrator at the Kalene Mission Hospital in Zambia’s north-west.

Following local political tensions around the control of the hospital, its administrator, executive director and board chairman all resigned.

Mr Stark, who has worked “on and off” in Zambia for 20 years, also decided that he should leave for his own personal safety, but hospital supporters who wanted him to stay gathered to stop him.

He was eventually smuggled out under a traditional cloth in the back seat of a car.

“The police did not want a riot and so I was told to stay initially, but after hours of negotiating it was decided that I could leave and the chairman of the CMML Health Board would take my place at a meeting, which was held the following day,” Mr Stark said in a Canterbury health newsletter.


UK: The low pay on offer to pharmacy technicians may be a factor in their reluctance to engage with regulatory processes, says the UK’s Pharmacists’ Defence Association says.

The union has released the second chapter of its report into pharmacy technicians, in which it highlights that “the average annual salary for a community pharmacy technician appears to be comparable to that of a cleaner or housekeeper or that of a general service occupation such as retail cashier, checkout operator and travel agent”.

The report says that the threat of the “ultimate sanction” of being removed from the register is only a strong influence on behaviours if it can result in significant loss of income, career damage and loss of reputation or status.

“If registrants do not have an income, career and reputation or status that they believe is worth protecting, then regulatory traction is reduced and the protection afforded to the public by regulation will be diminished,” PDA says.

The study of 50 months’ of General Pharmaceutical Council disciplinary hearings of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians showed that only 22% of techs attended their professional disciplinary meetings, compared to 77% of pharmacists.

“The existence of a register of pharmacy technicians cannot be relied upon in isolation to protect the public but must be underpinned by a suitably structured career framework linked to pay banding at a significantly higher level than is currently the case in community pharmacy if pharmacy technicians are to be able to support the roles of pharmacists,” says PDA.

A wider study of the salaries of technicians from all of the other healthcare professions showed that the salaries for pharmacy technicians employed in community pharmacy were the lowest of all and was equivalent to only the level of the UK Living Wage.

Hospital pharmacy technicians were better-paid and supported.


Middlesbrough, UK: Pharmacist Mitesh Patel has pleaded not guilty to a charge of murdering his wife Jessica Patel, also a pharmacist.

In May, Ms Patel was found with significant injuries in her Linthorpe home, and pronounced dead at the scene. Her husband was later arrested and charged.

Now, he has fronted Teesside Crown Court via a live video link from Durham Prison, and pleaded not guilty. Mr Patel will go to trial in November, the Northern Echo reports.

Ms Patel had worked at the Roman Road Pharmacy which her husband owned. She was described earlier this year by detective superintendent Tariq Ali, speaking to Chemist+Druggist that “we know that Jessica was a well-liked and well-respected member of the local community, and that a lot of people knew her from working at the pharmacy.”

Nine members of Ms Patel’s family attended the hearing.

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