VCAT supports Pharmacy Board’s immediate suspension of anti-vax pharmacist found breaching COVID restrictions: Stogiannis v Pharmacy Board of Australia [2022] VCAT 365 (5 April 2022)

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By Stuart Eustice, Partner & Holly White, Lawyer

On 1 March 2022 the Pharmacy Board took immediate action to suspend a registered pharmacist’s registration because of her failure to comply with Chief Health Officer Directions. The pharmacist made an application to VCAT to stay the decision, largely based on allegations the Tribunal did not have the jurisdiction to hear the stay application and whether the Board had the power to make its decision. The pharmacist was assisted by a lay representative and was repeatedly recommended to seek independent legal advice by the Tribunal.

The pharmacist filed a range of documents with the Tribunal making allegations such as:

  1. The 2018 Victorian election was affected by fraud;
  2. The Premier, Mr Daniel Andrews, was concealing treason and a range of individuals of the Pharmacy Board and Department were complicit in the alleged treason. Also that the Pharmacy Board’s legal representatives had engaged in treason;
  3. The National Law is invalid;
  4. The Board’s decision was invalid because the chairperson of the Pharmacy Board was not legally qualified. If such a person could make the decision, any community member could make any decision they wished;
  5. Mainstream media, politicians, all Boards established under the National Law, health professionals and the World Health Organisation have lied about the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines;
  6. Many medical experts say mRNA vaccines cause AIDS;
  7. The US FDA took a $2.8 million bribe from Pfizer to approve its ‘bioweapon’;
  8. Millions of people have died after receiving mRNA vaccines;
  9. Those involved with vaccination will be tried for manslaughter or murder;

In the hearing, the Tribunal asked whether the pharmacist had any submissions relating to her conduct, her representative stated:

  1. The Department took action against the pharmacist because it did not like her keeping a written record of attendees at the pharmacy rather than by QR code;
  2. She was highly committed to her patients, which included elderly patients who relied on her to deliver prescriptions to their homes;
  3. She had not adversely affected anyone’s health; and
  4. She had not committed any crime, but rather a crime had been committed against her.

The Board’s submissions were:

  1. The pharmacist had likely failed to adhere to public health directions and public knowledge of this alleged failure would highly likely adversely impact public opinion of the pharmacy profession;
  2. There was no risk to patients as the pharmacist had been on notice for some time of the possible immediate action, providing her an opportunity to make other arrangements for her patients. The Board also noted the pharmacy is located in an urban area with other pharmacies available;
  3. The pharmacist’s submissions suggested she did not have sound judgement or respect for lawful obligations and the pharmacist had offered no re-assurance she would practice in accordance with her legal obligations in the future; and
  4. There were grounds for a reasonable belief the pharmacist would not give safe advice to patients regarding vaccines.

The Tribunal described the pharmacist’s theories as at worst ‘dangerous nonsense’, considering she had ‘fallen under the spell of a world view that is remote from reality and entirely inconsistent with the standards of the pharmacy profession’.

The Tribunal agreed with the Board’s submission that ‘there is a powerful public interest in protecting the public from unsafe practitioners’. It upheld the Board’s decision for an immediate suspension of the pharmacist’s registration pending the final review hearing.

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