Morphine Missing From Ireland Ambulance Base
A batch of morphine - a highly addictive drug that comes from the same family as heroin - has mysteriously gone missing at an ambulance base.
The HSE and Ambulance Service have said they will co-operate with a garda investigation into the disappearance of the stash of pain-killers at a unit in Co. Kildare.
Gardaí launched a probe after an audit of drugs at the medics base showed up a discrepancy in the amount of morphine allotted to the facility.
Morphine is assigned to qualified advanced paramedics who sign the drug out at the start of their tour of duty when it is locked in a concealed safe in the ambulances.
Sources have said that the morphine should have been securely locked away in a so-called 'controlled drug cabinet' in the ambulance base and access to this stash is only granted to qualified medics. They use morphine to treat high levels of pain during emergencies. It is understood that a regular drugs audit took place at the base within the last six months and during this examination of stock it was determined that there was a 'missing' batch of morphine sulphate.
This weekend the HSE confirmed that an investigation was underway but refused to comment any further.
The HSE statement read: 'In compliance with relevant medication legislation, the HSE in co-operation with the gardaí, must review any such incidents where drugs are unaccounted for following routine auditing. 'A review is underway arising out of an audit by HSE Ambulance Services in [Kildare].
'The HSE cannot comment further while this review is underway.' A 13-page document, obtained by the Irish Daily Mail, is used as a code of practice in the administering of morphine at ambulance bases. The document outlines in full the practices and procedures expected of ambulance service staff when dealing with the drug.
A dedicated 'Drug Station Record Book' must be available in the base and must be filled out by medics when taking morphine from the drugs cabinet, it states.
Rules outline that a witness must also counter sign this order. However if no one is available this must be noted in the record book. The document is explicit in its rules regarding misplaced morphine. 'In the event that an Advanced Paramedic loses any stock of Morphine and/or Midazolam from the vehicle, this should be reported immediately to Ambulance Control,' the rules state. 'Ambulance Control must advise An Garda Síochána and the relevant officer, as per area protocol.
'The manager will liaise with the Advanced Paramedic and conduct a preliminary investigation.
The manager or a nominated NAS representative must be present during any Garda interview,' the document states.
There are sanctions for paramedics who do not follow the guidelines.
'If found guilty of serious misconduct with regards to the handling of controlled drugs following an internal investigation, staff may be subject to criminal proceedings, internal disciplinary action and reported to the Pre Hospital Emergency Care Council's Fitness to Practice Committee,' it concludes.
A senior Emergency Services source said last night: 'It is not known if there is a sinister element to this or not - it could be a case of a clerical error but it is a very serious problem.
'If it isn't documented then we don't know where this morphine has disappeared to.
'There are criminal elements who would like to get their hands on this stuff.
'The Ambulance Service must be very careful,' the source added.
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