Reposted from Pivot Legal http://www.pivotlegal.org
B.C. College of Pharmacists and Attorney General side with Pivot to create legal protections for methadone patients living in Downtown Eastside hotels
In 2008, pharmacist and SRO hotel owner George Wolsey was exposed for offering kickbacks and illegal inducements to attract methadone patients to his Gastown Pharmacy. The Gastown Pharmacy was shut down as a result of the controversy, but that did not stop Wolsey, who also owns the Palace and Wonder Rooms hotels, from requiring all his tenants to buy methadone from him at his hotel. This practice allowed Wolsey to make more than $6000 per year in dispensing fees for each methadone patient at his hotel.
In May 2009, Wolsey evicted two of his tenants on 24 hours notice because they opted to use another pharmacy to fill their prescriptions. When the tenants challenged those evictions at the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB), the RTB stated that the Residential Tenancy Act did not protect them because Wolsey was providing “therapeutic treatment or services” in the form of methadone. The RTB made this ruling despite evidence that no treatment, services or supports of any kind were made available to tenants.
In September, Pivot applied to the B.C. Supreme Court for judicial review of the RTB decisions. Last week the B.C. Attorney General, which represents the RTB, said in a filed response to Pivot’s application that it supports Pivot’s position and agrees that the Residential Tenancy Act should apply to the Wolsey hotels.
“These tenants, who were illegally evicted, spent many nights on the streets as a result of the RTB’s failure to protect them from Wolsey’s greed,” said Laura Track, lawyer for Pivot Legal Society. “With the Attorney General and Pivot presenting a common position to the court, we feel confident the cases will be sent back to the RTB for a full and proper hearing.”
In addition, the College of Pharmacists of B.C., in response to concerns raised by Pivot over Wolsey’s practices, announced that it has amended its bylaws to prevent pharmacists from limiting patients’ choice of pharmacy. The new bylaws make the types of contracts used by Mr. Wolsey illegal. The College also informed Pivot that it has sent letters to Mr. Wolsey advising him of the changes and noting numerous complaints against him for these practices.
“We are very happy that the College of Pharmacists and the Attorney General have responded in the way they did,” said Track. “This kind of exploitation is completely unacceptable, and we hope that Mr. Wolsey amends his practices before we are forced to bring further legal actions against him.”