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Registrants must comply with the orders of a Hearing Tribunal

October 31, 2018
Lessons Learned: A recent hearing tribunal issued its written decision on the merit and orders regarding the conduct of a pharmacist.

A recent Hearing Tribunal issued its written decision on the merit and orders regarding the conduct of a pharmacist who breached the orders of a previous Hearing Tribunal’s decision.

By practising while suspended, the pharmacist’s breach of the previous orders was determined by a second Hearing Tribunal to be an act of unprofessional conduct. In their decision, the Hearing Tribunal affirmed the necessity for pharmacists to fully comply with a Hearing Tribunal’s orders.

As a pharmacy professional, if you are not willing to comply with a Hearing Tribunal’s orders, ACP must consider whether you can be regulated, and thus whether you should be in the profession.

In this matter, the tribunal imposed very significant penalties, even though the pharmacist showed remorse, there were significant family and financial pressures, and there was no demonstrated patient harm. The tribunal ordered the following:

  • a suspension of the pharmacist’s practice permit for a period of 18 months, with six months to be served and the remaining 12 months of suspension being held in abeyance for a period of four years pending the pharmacist’s completion of the orders and there being no further complaints or findings of unprofessional conduct that are referred to a hearing before a Hearing Tribunal;
  • for a period of four years the pharmacist must provide any person who employs the pharmacist in a capacity as a regulated member of the college, or any pharmacy employer or licensee, with a copy of this decision of the Hearing Tribunal and the decision of the previous Hearing Tribunal;
  • for a period of four years the pharmacist shall not be permitted to be an owner, proprietor, or licensee of a pharmacy;
  • a fine of $5000; and
  • requirement to pay the full costs of the hearing (estimated to be in the range of $10,000).

Rationale for the tribunal’s decision, is reflected in its following statements:

Pharmacists are a self-regulated profession and as such, they must hold themselves to the highest standards.  It is a tremendous privilege to have the autonomy that self-regulation allows.  There is never a situation where it is acceptable for a member to practice while their practice permit is suspended.  [The pharmacist] noted that she was embarrassed to share the previous Hearing Tribunal decision with her employer [ ] – her inaction is inexcusable.  The implications of practicing without a valid permit are significant and ultimately place members of the public at unnecessary risk.  It is not appropriate for the member to put her financial situation above her professional obligations.

[The pharmacist’s] contempt of the orders from the previous decision is disturbing to the Hearing Tribunal.  Misrepresenting herself to the public as a pharmacist in good standing, failing to cease practice and neglecting to inform her employer were significant lapses in [the pharmacist’s] judgement.  This type of inaction undermines the College’s ability to regulate its membership.  Patients need to trust that each pharmacist respects and follows our code of ethics, laws, standards and regulations.  Situations such as this one have the potential to damage the overall trust the public has in our profession.

Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians – incorporate these lessons into your approach to being regulated as a pharmacy professional

  1. Review your professional obligations in complying with Hearing Tribunal orders and being regulated. Principles 10(1, 10), 11 and 12(6) of the Code of Ethics may provide you with valuable guidance in this respect.
  2. Understand that a failure or refusal to comply with the orders of a Hearing Tribunal may be considered unprofessional conduct. Also, unprofessional conduct may also arise from a failure or refusal to comply with the continuing competence program, a direction of the registrar, a ratified settlement, a direction to assess capacity, or a notice to attend a hearing. See section 1(1)(pp) of the Health Professions Act (HPA).
  3. Understand that a failure to or refusal to cooperate with a practice visit, inspector, investigator, or field officer may be considered unprofessional conduct or misconduct. See section 1(1)(pp) of the HPA and sections 1(1)(p) and 21(8) of the Pharmacy and Drug Act.
  4. Review and understand all aspects of a Hearing Tribunal’s orders. If you are not certain about your requirements in complying with an order, DON’T guess or assume. Clarify any uncertainty you might have with the Hearing Tribunal, ACP, or legal counsel.

Do not allow your personal circumstances to negatively affect your professional obligations.