Sometimes an incident occurs in life which crystallizes all that is wrong or all that is right about a given situation. A recent ruling by the Complaints Committee of the Ontario College of Pharmacists (OCP), and subsequently upheld by the Health Profession Appeal & Review Board (HPARB), against an Ontario pharmacist is one of these crystallizing moments. In this case this ruling could not better exemplify all that is wrong with the OCP (and with HPARB). It’s a classic.
The piece, published on the Canadian Healthcare Network (CHN), garnered 109 reader comments, maybe a record. All comments were highly critical of the ruling and came from incensed pharmacists right across the country.
In law, “Justice must not only be done, it must seem to be done”. In this case not only was justice not done, but a great injustice was perpetrated, not only on the unfortunate pharmacist involved, but on the pharmacy profession as a whole, and indeed all pharmacists across the country.
First, the incident involved an individual who was neither a patient of the pharmacy nor a customer of the pharmacy involved; the individual was a post office customer. Under what jurisdiction did the OCP exercise its duty? Why did the irate customer complain to the OCP in the first place? The incident whereby the pharmacist did not “fetch” the parcel on demand did not involve a patient/ pharmacist encounter. The irate customer could have complained that she was not satisfied with the retail service she received from an employee to the owner of the store, a retail service matter, not a professional misconduct matter. The pharmacist’s reaction or behaviour had nothing to do with his professional duties as a pharmacist. Maybe if he wasn’t wearing the ubiquitous white coat, she might not have known he was a pharmacist. The white coat and the pharmacy setting made him the target for her misplaced and rude behaviour and subsequent complaint.
What if the incident occurred in a parking lot, or between disputing neighbours, or between spouses? Where does the jurisdiction of the OCP to meddle in the lives and personalities of pharmacists’ end? What did this incident have to do with the pharmacist’s lack of knowledge of jurisprudence? This was not a statutory or legal issue, it was behavioural on both the part of an irate customer and a store employee.
The OCP could have simply indicated that this incident did not fall under the definition of a pharmacy activity and was therefore not within its purview. But no, in its over zealousness to appear to always be “acting in the interest of the public”, the OCP did not hesitate to take down the pharmacist and apply ridiculous punishments which went far beyond what was justified under the circumstances.
The compulsion for the pharmacist to attend a ‘Managing Conflict when People are Angry Course” borders on imposing mind-bending central state tyranny. The course happens to be given by a company which one of the HPARB panel members was once a VP of. Conflict of interest anyone?
What business does the OCP have trying to alter the behavioural characteristics of its members, most of whom are less than perfect. This ruling could not reveal more how far off track the OCP is in exercising its mandate. The OCP does nothing to attempt to impact on the total loss of control of the profession to big business interests but chooses to focus on hammering a frustrated pharmacist trying to deal with an unreasonable angry retail customer.
He probably does not have the money or the time, but if this unjustly persecuted pharmacist took this matter to civil court, the outcome would likely be very different. Wouldn’t this be a neat thing for the OPA to support and drive? Just dreaming in technicolour of course.
The other aspect of why this whole incident sparks such an angry reaction from the pharmacist community has nothing to do with the OCP. It has to do with what pharmacy has become, largely a retail business with employee pharmacists required to suck up to customers lest they take their business elsewhere, or to the internet.
Professionals are supposed to be frank, and sometimes firm, with their patients. Ask any physician or nurse how often they need to be less that smiley and effusive when dealing with patients in the patients’ own self interest.
This philosophy does not apply to lowly retail clerks who are expected to ‘run and fetch’ whatever is demanded of a retail customer. Anything short of grovelling could cost a clerk his/her job, or in this case the intervention of his regulatory body’s unjust and self-fulfilling judgement, and it did cost him his job too. Time for the notion of pharmacy self regulation to be reviewed for this, and for so many other reasons.
The reality is that customers are always right, but patients are not. Too bad this poor guy had everything stacked against him, and not a single person or entity came to his aid.
Wonder if they will review this case in pharmacy schools as an example of what graduates can look forward to.