17 Dec 2020
A pharmacist has been suspended after a tribunal finding of professional misconduct, for conduct described as a ‘fundamental failure of responsibility’.
In addition to suspending Andrew Nguyen’s registration for six months, the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal) also:
The conditions imposed require that Mr Nguyen’s return to practise be supervised and that he have a mentor.
Mr Nguyen was before the tribunal for providing prescription medication to patients knowing that the prescriptions had not been issued by a registered medical practitioner. He also provided medication without prescriptions at all on the basis that certain patients could be provided with regular medication without a prescription and the patient would then obtain a retrospective prescription.
Mr Nguyen also dispensed medications, or permitted medications to be dispensed, on repeats where no retrospective approval had been received following the initial unsigned prescription. The medications, some of which were Schedule 8 drugs, were supplied on 69 occasions over 21 months in 2014 and 2015.
Mr Nguyen told the tribunal he believed the prescriptions had been generated by an employee, who did not hold medical registration, from the private medical centre nearby with the knowledge of a registered medical practitioner. The registered medical practitioner also known to Mr Nguyen, had either not seen the patient because he was on leave or was unable to do so.
The tribunal said that by placing his trust in another person and the medical practitioner, Mr Nguyen was abdicating the responsibility of a pharmacist to care for the persons to whom the medications were dispensed. To do so was a fundamental failure of responsibility.
Mr Nguyen admitted that in some instances he had dispensed controlled substances, including drugs of dependence, without a signed prescription. He admitted that his conduct as a whole compromised public safety, public confidence and trust in the pharmacy profession and pharmacists, and contravened the Pharmacy Board of Australia’s Code of conduct and Guidelines for dispensing of medicines, and the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia’s Code of ethics for pharmacists.
The tribunal was satisfied, despite the period of conduct, that Mr Nguyen could, and would if given the opportunity and appropriately guided, practise as a pharmacist to a standard acceptable within the profession and community expectations. However, a reprimand ‘in strong terms’ and a period of suspension were appropriate, the tribunal said, both to signal to Mr Nguyen and to the community the extent of Mr Nguyen’s departure from acceptable standards.
The tribunal said the period of suspension appropriate for the conduct was two years rather than the six months imposed which recognised that Mr Nguyen had substantially reduced his practice over the four years following the events that were the subject of proceedings and that he had also carried out further education.
The tribunal’s decision is published on the AustLII website.
Read the related tribunal matter, Tribunal cancels medical practitioner's registration.