NCAT Decision – Pharmacist ZXY

Pharmacist ZXY was found guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct and professional misconduct by the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal on 6 September 2021. The practitioner’s registration was cancelled and an order made that an application for review of this decision could not be made for four years.

The practitioner came to the notice of the Pharmacy Council of NSW (the Council) in late 2019 when a complaint was made that a quantity of morphine sulfate ampoules had been found in the practitioner’s personal workplace locker. An immediate action hearing was held under Section 150 of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (NSW), and the practitioner’s registration was suspended.

Further investigations were subsequently carried out by the Pharmaceutical Regulatory Unit (PRU) and Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC). These revealed that the practitioner had a history of shoplifting from retail stores, which had resulted in criminal charges being laid between 2008 and 2016. The practitioner did not advise Ahpra of these charges when applying for registration on at least four occasions.

The Tribunal concluded that “On the evidence before us we are satisfied that the practitioner knowingly made false and misleading statements to AHPRA” by failing to disclose these criminal charges when seeking renewal of registration in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

Further, the investigations revealed that the practitioner had misappropriated approximately $30,000 over a period of 12 months from the pharmacy at which she worked until dismissed in late 2019. This had been done by misusing multiple staff identification details at the pharmacy to reprint customer receipts and process cash refunds which were then credited to the practitioner’s own account. The practitioner later repaid the misappropriated amounts.

The practitioner claimed that the morphine sulfate ampoules found in the personal workplace locker had been stored there because the drug safe was full and the ampoules did not fit inside. In relation to this aspect of the case, the Tribunal found “We are satisfied that the practitioner’s conduct in this regard was improper. As pharmacist in charge of maintaining the register of drugs of dependence, her judgment in placing the drugs in her own locker was significantly below the standard reasonably expected of a practitioner of an equivalent level of training and experience. It was contrary to cl 76 of the regulation.”

The practitioner was also found to have an impairment relating to her mental health, possibly at least partly as a consequence of past traumas. An expert psychiatrist concluded that the practitioner “appears to have personality vulnerabilities characterised by emotional dysregulation and self-harming behaviour as well as some antisocial traits as evidenced by prior criminality.”

Taken together, these findings led the Tribunal to conclude that pharmacist ZXY was not a suitable person to hold registration as a pharmacist. It specifically commented that:

  • “the practitioner engaged in theft and/or money laundering in the course of her employment as a pharmacist. She abused the trust placed in her by her employer, and brought the profession into disrepute by her actions.”
  • “her conduct in using other staff members’ identification details when accessing the cash register was carried out in complete disregard for any consequences her conduct may have had on those staff members.”
  • “the practitioner knowingly did not disclose her criminal history to AHPRA when applying for registration or renewing her registration.”
  • although the practitioner’s vulnerabilities and persistent depression were likely to have contributed to her conduct, “notwithstanding the mitigating circumstances that the practitioner has consistently engaged in dishonest conduct over a lengthy period of time.”

The Tribunal ordered that the name of the practitioner not be published. The full decision can be found here.