Leading hospitals face probe as thousands of ‘highly addictive’ drugs go missing

Thousands of highly addictive medicines and drugs at Queensland’s busiest hospitals have gone missing or have been stolen, with some staff facing disciplinary action.

Aug 17, 2020, updated Aug 17, 2020
The Queensland health system has been under pressure. (Supplied)

The Queensland health system has been under pressure. (Supplied)

The list of unaccounted-for medication across the Metro North and Metro South districts around Brisbane includes numerous high-level and restricted drugs like Fentanyl, Oxycodone and Methadone.

The documents were obtained under Right to Information and reveal thousands of medical supplies went missing between January and September 2019.

On several occasions, the highly addictive pain relief drug Fentanyl was presumed stolen from the Princess Alexandra Hospital, although Metro North did not reveal how it was taken, or by whom.

An unknown quantity of the same drug, which is commonly found on the black market, was presumed stolen by staff at the Prince Charles Hospital.

The opioid is classified as a Schedule 8 drug, meaning it is highly restricted because of its addictiveness, and is between 80 and 100 times stronger than morphine.

During the same period, staff were also accused of stealing an unknown quantity of the pain medication Oxycodone at the Prince Charles Hospital.

Queensland Health employees were also suspected of stealing anaesthetic medication Propofol and diabetic treatment drug Novorapid from facilities, including the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital.

At the Princess Alexandra Hospital in South Brisbane, 3,383 vials of the stimulant Ephedrine went missing, without an identified reason.

The drug can be used to treat low blood pressure, asthma and obesity.

Spokespeople for the Brisbane health districts declined to say what disciplinary action staff had faced as a result of the missing medicines, but at least one matter had been referred to the Crime and Corruption Commission.

“A detailed investigation was undertaken and as a result, a number of improvements and control measures have been implemented to mitigate drug discrepancies in this area,” a Metro South spokesperson said.

“This matter is subject to an ongoing confidential disciplinary process.”

A Metro North spokesperson said all staff were required to report discrepancies in missing medications.

“Metro North Hospital and Health Service has robust security measures in place to support patient safety and ethical practice,” a spokesperson said.

“Any instance of suspected-stolen or unaccounted-for medication is investigated at a facility level or by the Metro North Integrity Unit.”

At least three Metro North cases were being investigated by the Integrity Unity, with several more referred there for monitoring.

– ABC / Exclusive by state political reporter Allyson Horn

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