By FARRAH JOHNSON
THE Court of Appeal yesterday dismissed the appeal of 13 pharmacists who sought to have their licences renewed by the Bahamas Pharmacy Council, after ruling that doing so would “reduce quality pharmacy care”.
The institution the pharmacists received their degree from is unaccredited under the Pharmacy Act.
Phillipa Finlayson and 12 other students received bachelor’s degrees in pharmacy from McHari Institute between 2006 and 2011.
All but one of the appellants also obtained a master’s degree in clinical pharmacy from the institution between 2009 and 2014.
In 2009, the responsibility for registering pharmacists and pharmacy technicians moved from the Health Professions Council to the Bahamas Pharmacy Council after the Pharmacy Act was passed. After the Department of Public Service made an enquiry into McHari’s accreditation and correspondence, the Bahamas Pharmacy Council determined that McHari was not an accredited institution for the purposes of licensing professionals under the Pharmacy Act.
According to a judgment posted on the Court of Appeal’s website, in their extraordinary meeting in 2017, the council concluded that the graduates would have to have their degrees evaluated by an evaluation agency to “determine whether the degrees they received were equivalent to the degrees of an accredited university.”
“The appellants would be granted provisional licenses while they awaited the report from the evaluation agency,” the court documents read. “If their degrees were equivalent their licenses would be renewed; if the degrees were not equivalent they would be given provisional licenses to be renewed every three months for a period of two years on the condition that during this time they would sit and pass the Council’s Registration Examination and the Bahamas Pharmacy Law Examination and for those that did not pass the exams they would be placed on the register of licensed pharmacy technicians after successful completion of that exam.”
The McHari graduates filed their appeal on the grounds that the trial judge erred when she concluded that the McHari Institute was not an “accredited university” in 2010, as outlined in section nine of the Pharmacy Act. They further argued that the trial judge made a mistake when she failed to conclude that the Bahamas Pharmacy Council acted illegally when it determined that it had “acted ultra vires when it granted a provisional license to the appellant in 2010.”
Still, Justices Jon Isaacs, Milton Evans and Roy Jones yesterday ruled that the trial judge “was entitled to find that McHari was not accredited,” since Parliament could not have intended ‘accredited’ to have the same meaning as ‘registration’ since it could have “chosen to use that language in the Act.” They also noted that while the Act does not give a definition of accreditation, a description of the word can be found in the National Accreditation and Equivalency Council of The Bahamas Act which was passed in 2007.
“We agree with the respondent that there is an overriding public interest in the health and safety of the public in the dispensing of medicine to its members,” the justices noted.
“The duty of the (Pharmacy) Council is to register persons who meet the educational requirements. The failure of registered pharmacists to meet these competencies and educational requirements may expose the public to a reduction in quality pharmacy care and increase the possibility of medication errors. The appellants also fail on this issue. For all these reasons, we dismiss the appeal and order that the appellants pay the respondent’s costs, to be taxed if not agreed.”