Revelations that paramedics have been stealing and trafficking drugs has forced Ambulance Victoria to tighten its policies.
New measures, detailed in a progress report to the state’s corruption watchdog, include random drug and alcohol testing. Tests are continuing on a weekly basis, after 198 paramedics were tested by the end of March.
It comes after Victoria’s Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) last year found 15 ambulance workers trafficked and used illicit drugs, stole medication from ambulances and took intravenous bags to treat hangovers.
The report considered allegations in the Barwon South West region, but found the corruption risks were likely to be widespread across the state.
Ambulance Victoria on Monday said pharmacists had been recruited to reduce paramedic involvement in ordering and tracking restricted medications.
A professional conduct unit has also been establish to allow staff to report misconduct anonymously.
An electronic medication inventory and staff training around restricted medications will be introduced later in the year.
The IBAC investigation last year found two paramedics were involved in the trafficking, use and possession of illicit drugs. Several were found to be using illicit drugs, and one paramedic had stolen and used drugs of dependence from Ambulance Victoria – including fentanyl and morphine.
Several paramedics were using and sharing Ambulance Victoria drugs, as well as some personal medications including temazepam and oxycodone.
“Some paramedics were misappropriating Ambulance Victoria supplies to inappropriately treat themselves, colleagues, family members and friends,” IBAC said at the time.
“This conduct extended to paramedics taking intravenous bags, along with cannulation equipment, to treat the symptoms of hangovers.”
IBAC Commissioner Stephen O’Bryan said the revelations were concerning, considering paramedics played a “vital role in serving the community”.
“The community rightfully places great trust in paramedics and expects they will demonstrate professionalism and integrity in carrying out their duty of care to patients,” the commissioner said at the time.
He said the revelations could have safety implications for patients.
As a result of the investigation, one paramedic was sacked and eight resigned. Another six received a formal warning and some were sent to work in different regionals and underwent ethics counselling.