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More paramedics connected to alleged drug theft

By Karen Keast | Last Updated: 20-11-2013

Seven paramedics are now linked to alleged drug theft in the past four years

Seven paramedics in the past four years have now been linked to the alleged theft of drugs from Ambulance Victoria.

The revelation comes after Victoria Police arrested a second paramedic in relation to the alleged theft of a large quantity of the pain killer drug Fentanyl.

Hundreds of patients were affected when vials of Fentanyl were allegedly replaced with tap water.

The ambulance service is remaining tight-lipped on the recent alleged thefts as police continue their investigation into the incident.

“As there is a formal police investigation underway, unfortunately we are unable to provide any further details of the investigation at this time,” Ambulance Victoria general manager regional services Tony Walker said.

Mr Walker said in addition to the current investigation,
three paramedics have been dismissed following an investigation into the theft of drugs while two paramedics have resigned during investigations since Ambulance Victoria was formed in 2008.

“Only one of the previous cases involved patients and we advised the local community and spoke directly with all seven patients involved,” he said.

“Victoria Police was notified in all of the cases in line with our processes.

“Ambulance Victoria immediately acts on any suspected cases of drug misappropriation and reports any thefts to the Victoria Police.”

Mr Walker said while the service had “very good surveillance and controls”, paramedics require access to drugs.

“No matter how many security measures we have in place, paramedics must have access to drugs in the course of their duties, and if an individual is determined to misappropriate the pharmacology available, they will unfortunately do whatever they can to circumvent those security measures,” he said.

“The use of substances in the community exists and therefore it will exist in probably any workforce of any description and ambulance is not immune to this.”

Mr Walker said paramedics found to have misappropriated drugs are offered support regardless of whether or not they remain an employee.

“Ambulance Victoria has a psychological counselling unit to refer paramedics to for help which also conducts research to track the wellbeing of paramedics,” he said.

“This is also supported by our chaplaincy service.

“Paramedics are trusted with patients’ lives, treatment and privacy, and they are also entrusted with pharmacology.

“The issue of us maintaining public trust in paramedics is very important. Paramedics fulfil that level of trust almost perfectly.”

Following an earlier request from Ambulance Victoria, Victoria has become the first state in Australia to now use Fentanyl vials with a more tamper-proof steel cap, replacing the former rubber cap which could be penetrated with a needle.
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