A pharmacist who reused syringes while giving people COVID-19 shots at a New Westminster pharmacy two years ago is suing his former employer, saying his “slight” error in judgment was insufficient to justify firing him without cause.
Bhanu Prasad Seelaboyina was fired from his job as pharmacy manager at the Kent Pharmacy on Columbia Street on Sept. 13, 2021, according to a notice of civil claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court earlier this month.
A few weeks earlier, between Aug. 24 and 26, 2021, Seelaboyina had “made an error in judgment,” the claim says.
“The, plaintiff, under the belief that he was engaging in safe practice that would not pose a health risk to patients, reused syringe barrels when administering COVID-19 vaccinations to certain patients,” states the claim.
Seelaboyina claims the pharmacy never gave him a copy of its safety protocols and didn’t review them with him either before or after the incident.
He says the pharmacy fired him without a review to determine if his actions amounted to “misconduct or gross incompetence,” and he argues his actions weren’t serious enough to justify termination without notice.
“A slight instance of an error in judgment is insufficient to ground just cause for dismissal,” states the claim.
He is now suing the pharmacy for breach of contract, wrongful dismissal and aggravated damages.
Seelaboyina, who was 32 years old when he was fired, says he now works as a pharmacist at People’s Shifa Pharmacy in Surrey, but his income is less than it was at Kent Pharmacy, according to the claim.
Patients, pharmacy also suing
Multiple lawsuits related to the syringe incident are currently making their way through the courts.
Patients launched a proposed class action lawsuit against the pharmacy, its owner Fabina Kara and Seelaboyina in late 2021.
Fraser Health had sent out notices in September 2021, recommending affected patients go for blood testing because “people can be at risk of getting Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and HIV from reuse of injection equipment.”
And, this past July, the pharmacy launched its own lawsuit against Seelaboyina, claiming he “negligently reused the same syringe barrel for multiple patients without the knowledge or approval of Kent Pharmacy.”
Despite Kent’s protocols and Seelaboyina being an experienced pharmacist in good standing, the suit claims he provided vaccinations in “a grossly negligent and dangerous manner.”
The claim said a patient had noticed the use of the same barrel on Aug. 26, and Kent became aware of the situation from police later that day.
The pharmacy is suing him for negligence, loss of business income, loss of goodwill and reputational harm.
BC College of Pharmacists discipline
Seelaboyina was disciplined by the College of Pharmacists of British Columbia for the syringe incident.
As part of an August 2022 consent agreement, he was suspended for a year and banned for another six months from administering drugs intranasally or by injection.
He is currently banned from acting as a pharmacy manager until August 2024 and is required to pass an ethics course and complete full retraining before applying for recertification to administer drugs intranasally or by injection.
Kent Pharmacy, meanwhile, was banned from providing COVID-19 vaccinations between September 2021 and January 2023 and from giving flu shots from December 2021 until December 2022.
None of the allegations in the lawsuits has been tested in court.
Kent Pharmacy has not yet filed a response to Seelaboyina’s claims.