09 Nov 2022
A pharmacist who misappropriated prescription-only pain killers and stole money from her workplace has been reprimanded, suspended and ordered to comply with health and education conditions.
In its decision on 20 September 2022, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal found Ga-Young Park engaged in professional misconduct, including by stealing drugs for her own use and by fraudulently processing refunds into her own account.
The disciplinary proceedings were brought against Ms Park by the Pharmacy Board of Australia after her employer detected her wrongdoing during a random audit.
It was agreed that in 2019 and 2020, Ms Park – although she knew it was wrong – chose to self-medicate with Panadeine Forte and Comfarol Forte, which she misappropriated from her workplace, rather than obtaining prescriptions for them.
Ms Park also fraudulently processed refunds for products she had not purchased, resulting in the value of the items being credited onto her bank cards.
She stole items from her employer including toothpaste, shampoo, cosmetics and baby items, some of which she gifted to friends.
The tribunal heard Ms Park did not use the stolen medication in excessive doses, or for any euphoric effect, but rather to treat a genuine medical condition.
However, it found Ms Park’s conduct was a fundamental breach of the trust placed in her, stating that it 'also placed her clients potentially at risk, in the event that her unsupervised drugtaking led to a diminution in her professional performance.'
Ms Park readily admitted her guilt and her employment was terminated on the day her conduct was discovered, 27 March 2020. She has repaid the total value of money and goods stolen – nearly $12,000.
No criminal charges were laid, but a report was made to the Board, which suspended Ms Park’s registration as a pharmacist by way of immediate action under section 156 of the National Law.
The Board’s Code of conduct, which pharmacists must adhere to, states that pharmacists have a duty to make the care of patients or clients their first concern and to practise safely and effectively.
As outlined in the code, good practice involves attending a general practitioner or other appropriate practitioner to meet health needs, and being aware of the risks of self-diagnosis and self-treatment.
The tribunal noted Ms Park had expressed remorse in emphatic terms and took into account that she had already been suspended for two years and four months, which, in addition to the nine-month penalty it imposed, amounted to a total suspension period of three years and one month.
Ms Park was ordered to complete a program of Board-approved education and to undertake treatment with a doctor and clinical psychologist or psychiatrist before she can return to practise.
The decision can be found on the AustLII website.