Pharmacist suspended for refusing tech check

March 21, 2005

A civilian pharmacist at a medical clinic tied to the U.S. Naval Hospital at Pensacola, Fla., was suspended for two weeks without pay last month for refusing to let a technician check prescriptions he had filled.

A civilian pharmacist at a medical clinic tied to the U.S. Naval Hospital at Pensacola, Fla., was suspended for two weeks without pay last month for refusing to let a technician check prescriptions he had filled.

Mark Malouse, a civil service pharmacist who has worked at the Naval Branch Health Clinic in Gulfport, Miss., for eight years, was suspended in the aftermath of a medication error he made last Dec. 13. He said that he quickly realized he had erred, notified the patient to not take the medication, and no harm came to her.

"I've been a pharmacist for 20 years and it's unheard of that a tech has to check behind the pharmacist," Malouse told Drug Topics. "Other pharmacists I've talked with are just incredulous. The tech says, 'I want all the bottles left out and I want the labels.' Who's the tech and who's the pharmacist?"

The issue is improving patient safety by having two people check prescriptions, not tech-check-pharmacist, according to Rodney Duren, public affairs officer, Naval Hospital at Pensacola. While he declined to discuss Malouse's case due to employee privacy constraints, he added that the hospital pharmacy department head had recommended that all its clinics in four states adopt a double-check policy.

"The [U.S. Navy's] Patient Safety Program, with its emphasis on process and system design, is an integral part of the risk reduction and performance improvement efforts of the facility, and it functions as an integral part of the quality assurance process of the facility," said Duren. "Thus, local facilities seek opportunities to reduce risks and improve patient safety. Double-checking prescriptions is a local initiative."

The Gulfport clinic pharmacy's SOP manual with the tech-check-pharmacist language was submitted by a technician, said Duren, who added that the facility has only one pharmacist and one tech. "The U.S. Navy does not have a requirement that pharmacy SOPs need to be submitted by a pharmacist," he said. "In this case, a motivated technician submitted an SOP which was extensively reviewed by a U.S. Navy pharmacist prior to approval."