Pharmacist's Irish registration cancelled after claiming €33,000 from HSE in 'crude' scheme

By Ann O'Loughlin

A pharmacist who got €33,000 from the HSE for 669 reimbursement claims made over five months for prescription only medicines for herself and her children, which an inquiry found were not supplied to them, has had her registration cancelled by the High Court.

Beatrice Ross and her two children enjoyed good, normal health. Her claims stopped in 2013 after the HSE queried them and she failed to produce prescriptions for the medicines claimed, many of which were expensive and not appropriate for children, the court heard.

Her family doctor had said he had never prescribed the medicines.

Ms Ross had operated a "crude" scheme of "serious dishonesty", the President of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, said.

Pharmacies at Fermoy, Co Cork, and Cahir, Co Tipperary, of which Ms Ross was the proprietor, were inspected after a "red flag" was raised in July 2013 by the HSE's Primary Care Reimbursement Scheme (PCRS) concerning claims being submitted by her for medicines allegedly supplied to her and her children by the two pharmacies.

The disputed claims were made under the drugs payment scheme where medicine costs of over €144 monthly are met by the Primary Care Reimbursement Scheme.

Families who do not have medical cards must pay the first €144 of the costs with the excess paid by the HSE directly to the pharmacy that dispenses the relevant medicines.

On analysis of Ms Ross' claims, anomalies were identified, including claims being made for medicines for two children which were either not appropriate for children or, because of the dosages and frequencies involved, were clinically inappropriate for children unless prescribed by a specialist consultant.

The professional conduct committee of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland later carried out an inquiry resulting in her being found guilty of professional misconduct in late 2017.

The Council of the PSI then applied to the High Court to confirm its recommendation her registration be cancelled.

Today, Mr Justice Kelly said Ms Ross' conduct involved "serious dishonesty" and he shared the PSI view there were "no mitigating factors" in this case.

Although Ms Ross appeared to have returned to her native France, he was satisfied he had jurisdiction to make the order cancelling her registration here, the judge held.

The application arose after the professional conduct committee found as proven an allegation the claims made by Ms Ross for reimbursement from the PCRS were made for medications which were not supplied to herself and her children by the two pharmacies involved.

Ms Ross did not attend before the inquiry and was not represented.

Ms Ross, formerly with a registered address at Cooliney, Ballyhooly, Co Cork, qualified as a pharmacist from the University of Caen, France, before coming here where she opened the pharmacies Fermoy and Cahir and a third pharmacy in Adare.

Counsel for the PSI said the complaints about her reimbursement claims related only to her pharmacies at Fermoy and Cahir. All three pharmacies have since closed.

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