Red Deer pharmacist suspended

Red Deer pharmacist Michael Tweedy has been suspended from practising for up to one year, starting Feb. 15, for unprofessional conduct and for over-billing Alberta Blue Cross about $1 million.

Red Deer pharmacist Michael Tweedy has been suspended from practising for up to one year, starting Feb. 15, for unprofessional conduct and for over-billing Alberta Blue Cross about $1 million.

According to the Alberta College of Pharmacists’ report on a tribunal hearing into Tweedy’s conduct, an Alberta Blue Cross audit of Hilltop Pharmacy, from June 1, 2007, to Jan. 31 2009, was initiated after a tip on the Fraud and Abuse Hotline in February 2008 alleging that drugs were delivered weekly but billed to Alberta Blue Cross daily.

Tweedy told the tribunal that daily billing generated about $45,000 per month in extra revenue and in October 2009, Alberta Blue Cross wanted its $1 million back.

Susan Bramm, senior manager of corporate communications with Alberta Blue Cross, said she was not at liberty to discuss details of the audit except to say “all outstanding issues were dealt with.”

“As a result of a standard compliance review, involving a comprehensive on-site audit of Hilltop Pharmacy in Red Deer, exceptional and significant contraventions were discovered and Alberta Blue Cross initiated actions to recover the amount outstanding,” Bramm said on Wednesday.

“Concerns were also submitted to the Alberta College of Pharmacists as a result of that on-site audit.”

Alberta College of Pharmacists announced Tweedy’s suspension in January.

At the hearing tribunal held about a year ago, the college found that Tweedy, owner of Hilltop Pharmacy since 2002, charged Alberta Blue Cross a daily dispensing fee while actually dispensing and delivering drugs on a weekly basis to residents at Kentwood Place, a transitional housing facility in Red Deer for people with schizophrenia.

Overcharging continued despite concerns expressed by physicians, Alberta Blue Cross and the college.

“This practice resulted in significantly increased revenues coming to Hilltop Pharmacy. Mr. Tweedy engaged in this practice purely to finance the operations of his other business, Kentwood Place,” stated the tribunal report findings, dated July 9, 2011.

Tweedy, landlord and owner of Kentwood Place, charged residents $700 rent per month if they filled their prescriptions at Hilltop Pharmacy, or $1,650 a month if prescriptions were filled elsewhere, according to a witness at the hearing.

Tweedy told the tribunal that daily dispensing was necessary to ensure the safety of Kentwood Place’s 25 clients and that he or another pharmacist was at Kentwood Place every day.

“Even if Mr. Tweedy’s concerns about patient safety were genuine, the Hearing Tribunal does not believe that, in this situation, patient safety with respect to medication security was Mr. Tweedy’s responsibility as a pharmacist. The Tribunal believes appropriate practices were in place at Kentwood Place to deal with patient safety concerns,” the tribunal report findings stated.

Tweedy testified he believed he was responsible for safely securing medications because he had no contract specifying the health region was responsible. He wanted a formal agreement with Alberta Health Services to protect the facility from possible damage or liability caused by residents.

“In these circumstances, a pharmacist should not be libel if a patient overdosed or discontinued their medications. Mr. Tweedy was not the clinic pharmacist at the facility and the evidence has shown that the medications were managed and administered by the staff of Kentwood Place,” the findings stated.

Kentwood Place was staffed by Alberta Health Services, with clinical programming provided in partnership with the Schizophrenia Society of Alberta, according to a tribunal witness.

Tweedy told the tribunal that operating costs for Kentwood Place increased over time more than he expected and daily dispensing did not cover the losses. He couldn’t sell Kentwood Place in 2009 to pay Alberta Blue Cross because the housing project would come to an end. He eventually sold the building in 2010 and paid Alberta Blue Cross out of the proceeds.

Schizophrenia Society of Alberta purchased the facility with a $1.6-million grant from Alberta Seniors and Community Supports and completed $250,000 in renovations by adding to its mortgage.

Tweedy told the tribunal that he did not fill many of the audited prescriptions and the pharmacy’s new computer system was a cause of concern.

The college ordered Tweedy be suspended from practising pharmacy for three years, with the final 24 months of his suspension to be stayed on conditions that he comply with all requirements of the college and respond promptly to any communications from the college.

Sanctions against Tweedy also included three fines of $5,000 each for unprofessional conduct in relation to the dealings with physicians and improper billing for dispensing to residents of Kentwood Place; failure to co-operate or respond to the college’s investigation and conduct displaying acts of ungovernability; and failure to co-operate or respond with the college’s competence committee and the complaint investigator and conduct displaying acts of ungovernability.

Tweedy was ordered to pay 75 per cent of expenses related to the investigation and the hearing to a maximum of $80,000.

Since March 2010, Tweedy has not been permitted to act as a pharmacy licensee. Every pharmacy is licensed in the name of an individual who functions as a pharmacy manager.

On Wednesday, Tweedy told the Advocate he is still one of the owners of Hilltop Pharmacy, but couldn’t comment on the tribunal and sanctions as he was in the process of determining if he should appeal.

There are no restrictions on who can own a pharmacy.

Tweedy has 30 days from his receipt of the written sanctions to file an appeal with the Council of the Alberta College of Pharmacists.

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A health worker holds up a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19 in Rome, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Cecilia Fabiano/LaPresse via AP
Health Canada approves AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine

Canada has pre-ordered 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine

A fallen Western Red cedar tree at Francis/King Regional Park in Saanich, B.C., Thursday, May 26, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Logging delay agreement for B.C. old-growth tree stand helps endangered spotted owls

Deal announced to hold off logging watershed for a year

An arrest by Red Deer RCMP is facing online scrutiny. No charges have been laid and the incident is still under investigation. (Screenshot of YouTube video)
Red Deer RCMP investigating violent arrest caught on video

Police say officer ‘acted within the scope of his duties’

Emily Keeping of Wetaskiwin, Alta., was last seen at 4:20 p.m. on Feb. 25, 2021 at the FasGas on 49 St and 50 Ave in Wetaskiwin. Supplied/ Wetaskiwin RCMP.
Wetaskiwin RCMP seek assistance in locating missing 11-year-old

Emily Keeping was last seen on Feb. 25, 2021 at the FasGas on 49 St and 50 Ave in Wetaskiwin.

FILE - Cameron Forte (right) and his Fraser Valley Bandits are 2-0 at the Canadian Elite Basketball League Summer Series after being the Saskatchewan Rattlers. (CEBL photo)
CEBL releases 14-game 2021 schedule, hopes to see fans attend games in person

Season will kick off with the Edmonton Stingers and the Fraser Valley Bandits

FILE - Keegan Messing performs during the Men’s Short program at the 2020 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships in Mississauga, Ont., Friday, Jan. 17, 2020. If the world figure skating championships do go ahead in a bubble in March in Sweden, there is a good chance Canada won’t be there. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Messing leads Canadian figure skating team at world championships

Messing was the only Canadian to compete on the Grand Prix circuit this season

Nurses episode, titled “Achilles Heel,” was first aired on Global in February 2020. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Global pulls ‘Nurses’ episode after scene with Orthodox Jews deemed anti-Semitic

TORONTO — Global TV says it has pulled an episode of Toronto-set… Continue reading

Lady Gaga is offering a $500,000 reward for the return of her two French bulldogs. (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Lady Gaga’s dog walker shot, French bulldogs stolen in LA

Dog walker expected to survive injuries

Calgary Flames defenceman Mark Giordano tries to help goaltender David Rittich stop a shot from Ottawa Senators right wing Drake Batherson during first-period NHL action Thursday, February 25, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Colin White scores two goals to lead Ottawa Senators to a 6-1 win over Calgary Flames

Colin White scores two goals to lead Ottawa Senators to a 6-1 win over Calgary Flames

Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy Vice-Admiral Art McDonald is seen during an interview with The Canadian Press in Ottawa, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Military reeling as new defence chief steps aside amid allegations of misconduct

Military reeling as new defence chief steps aside amid allegations of misconduct

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2020. It’s budget day in the province, and Kenney’s United Conservative government is promising more help in the fight against COVID, but more red ink on the bottom line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta’s budget promises more help for COVID-19 with a hard deficit

Alberta’s budget promises more help for COVID-19 with a hard deficit

Most Read