Administrative law – Decisions of administrative tribunals – College of Pharmacists – Inquiry committee decisions – Pharmacists – Disciplinary proceedings – Penalties and suspensions – Public interest – Judicial review – Procedural requirements and fairness – Failure to provide reasons – Delay – Investigative bodies – Role
Farbeh v. College of Pharmacists of British Columbia,  B.C.J. No. 1640, 2009 BCSC 1120, B.C. Supreme Court, August 17, 2009, H.J. Holmes J.
The Appellant, Farbeh, appealed a temporary suspension from practice pending further investigation, imposed by the Inquiry Committee of the College of Pharmacists of British Columbia. The evidence indicated that she had committed a number of dispensing errors, including spelling errors on labelled directions, misnamed physicians, incorrect directions, and changes to prescriptions absent authorization from a physician. In addition, the Appellant had failed to take corrective measures when concerns were first outlined by the College.
Farbeh argued that the Inquiry Committee breached its duties of procedural fairness by issuing a suspension order without notice. The Court distinguished between an administrative body’s investigative role from its adjudicative rule, and held that the requirements of procedural fairness for the former are less demanding than the latter. The Court further noted that the suspension was not a complete surprise and that it followed naturally from a first suspension which had previously been imposed and then lifted pursuant to an agreement. The Court also found that the Inquiry Committee acted on concerns that were numerous and prolific. In such circumstances, the Inquiry Committee did not breach the duties of procedural fairness when it decided to issue a suspension without making a full determination as to the merits of the allegations.
The Court also considered Farbeh’s argument that the suspension was not necessary to protect the public. The Court held that the Inquiry Committee’s conclusion in this regard was reasonable and supported by abundant evidence. There was evidence that merely imposing restrictions on practice was unworkable because Farbeh had neglected to abide by such conditions in the past.
Farbeh further argued that the Inquiry Committee’s reasons were inadequate. The Court also rejected this. The reasons were a four-page letter that announced the Inquiry Committee’s decision and described the basis for the conclusions.
The Court did give some credence to Farbeh’s argument that the College had unreasonably delayed its process and that this has caused her significant prejudice and financial hardship. The Court held that if the College had not taken action by the time its reasons were issued, Farbeh would have leave to reapply and make submissions with regards to an expedited hearing date.
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