A recent Hearing Tribunal issued its written decision on the merit and orders regarding the conduct of a pharmacist who was also the owner and proprietor of several pharmacies during the period of the alleged conduct. The pharmacist was alleged to have removed both patient records with identifying health information, as well as Schedule 1 and 2 drugs (including drugs scheduled under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act), from his pharmacies and stored these items at an apartment he owned. In doing so, he was also alleged to have prevented the licensees at these pharmacies from carrying out their obligations with respect to the proper storage of records and drugs.
The Hearing Tribunal found that through the pharmacist’s actions, there was potential for patient harm, the integrity of the profession was undermined, and the public’s trust in the profession was decreased. The Hearing Tribunal found the pharmacist’s conduct was unprofessional and, as a pharmacy owner and proprietor, he had engaged in misconduct.
The Hearing Tribunal also noted that the pharmacist was remorseful, accepted responsibility for his conduct, had no previous findings of unprofessional conduct, and fully cooperated with the investigation and hearing.
In this matter, the Tribunal imposed significant penalties, even though the pharmacist admitted his responsibility for the allegations and acknowledged that he failed to exercise the professional and ethical conduct expected and required of an Alberta pharmacist and pharmacy owner and proprietor. The Tribunal ordered
- a one-year practice permit suspension, with three months served from April 15, 2022, to July 15, 2022, and nine months held in abeyance, pending no investigation into similar conduct for three years;
- the successful completion of ACP’s Ethics and Jurisprudence Exam;
- fines totalling $10,000;
- the pharmacist to provide a copy of the written decision to any pharmacy employer or licensee of any pharmacy where he works as a pharmacist or is an owner or proprietor of for five years;
- if the Complaints Director refers similar concerns about the pharmacist to a hearing within five years, the pharmacist will not be permitted to serve as the owner, proprietor, or licensee of a pharmacy for five years; and
- payment of all the costs of the investigation and hearing ($14,700).
Rationale for the Tribunal’s decision is reflected in its following statements:
Pharmacists are entrusted under the Pharmacy and Drug Act to store drugs within licensed pharmacies and entrusted by the Health Information Act to be custodians of Albertans’ health information. By removing patient records from the pharmacy and storing them in an unauthorized location, [the pharmacist] disregarded both responsibilities. He also created the potential for patient harm, and the potential for that patient information to be accessed by third parties in an unauthorized manner.
Patients expect both appropriate steps towards confidentiality and environmental stewardship when they return drugs and records containing personal health information to their pharmacy. Proprietors are required to ensure that licensees are capable of and supported in managing the practice of pharmacists in their licensed pharmacy and ensuring that the Pharmacy and Drug Act, its regulations, and the Standards for the Operation of Licensed Pharmacies are complied with.
Registrants, licensees, owners, and proprietors – incorporate these lessons into your practice and the operation of your pharmacies
- Review the Pharmacy and Drug Act, the Pharmacy and Drug Regulation, the Health Information Act, and the Standards for the Operation of Licensed Pharmacies (SOLP) with regard to your responsibilities when operating a pharmacy, storing records, and storing drugs. Relevant sections and standards can be found in the Hearing Tribunal’s written decision.
- Review and consider your ethical responsibilities outlined in Principles 1 and 10 of the Code of Ethics. Always hold the best interests of your patients to be your primary concern.
- Complete Parts A and B of the ACP Licensee Education Program (LEP) to learn more about the duties and responsibilities of a licensee.
- Ensure that scheduled drugs and patient records are only stored in an authorized location. Drugs and patient records can normally never be stored at a personal residence or corporate office. Check with ACP if there is any uncertainty.