Eyes on ambos as police probe drug-saline switch

POLICE are investigating North East ambulance staff over relief drugs being replaced with saline.

Ambulance Victoria yesterday revealed the results of an investigation launched in December after it had been found sterile saline was being substituted for fentanyl and morphine when treating some patients.

The service’s chief executive officer Greg Sassella said the investigation had found 19 patients in the Hume region, which includes Wangaratta and Wodonga, had been given saline instead of fentanyl or morphine.

“We are contacting 19 people who may not have experienced the desired levels of pain reduction,” Mr Sassella said.

“In 12 cases, the medication was delivered through a nasal spray.

“These patients are not required to take any action.

“The other seven patients received intravenous or intramuscular pain relief.

“While it is very reassuring that independent sample testing of the tampered ampoules show no bacterial or viral contamination, we are encouraging these patients to discuss this with Ambulance Victoria or their doctor.”

Mr Sassella said police were investigating but no action had yet been taken.

He said access by paramedics to fentanyl had been banned in parts of the North East while the investigation continued.

New steps were in place to limit further substitution.

Mr Sassella apologised to the affected patients.

“On behalf of Ambulance Victoria, I offer my sincere apologies to these patients for not having been able to provide the level of care as effectively as could have been expected,” Mr Sassella said.

“My thoughts are also with the paramedics who have unwittingly administered saline to patients in the mistaken belief they were providing the pain relief required.”

Patients who wish to discuss their case can contact the service by email professionalstandards@ambulance.vic.gov.au or call (03) 9840 3635.