Ambulance Victoria welcomes the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) Operation Tone Special Report and fully accepts its recommendations.
IBAC’s Operation Tone investigation was undertaken from November 2015 to early 2017 and focused on the recreational use of illicit drugs outside of work by a small group of staff and theft of AV equipment for use outside work. The investigation also looked at one allegation of narcotic theft from AV.
Ambulance Victoria CEO Associate Professor Tony Walker said the organisation had zero tolerance for unprofessional behaviour and misconduct.
“We have a trusted position in the community that we need to do our job and we will not tolerate any staff member stepping outside Ambulance Victoria’s high clinical and ethical standards,” Associate Professor Walker said.
“Where people’s private lives have the potential to impact on the service we deliver, we are obliged to act.”
“While we’re confident that no patients have been affected and no patient care compromised by the behaviour of a small group of staff described in the IBAC report, the community both expects and deserves better from its ambulance service.”
Associate Professor Walker said Ambulance Victoria was committed to understanding the misappropriation of drugs and equipment and reforming practices, policies and culture that allowed these issues to occur.
Ambulance Victoria fully cooperated with IBAC, providing access to staff and files to enable a thorough and robust investigation.
“The majority of people come to work and do the right thing and deliver exceptional care for our patients. However when there are issues that could impact this, we won’t accept it and we won’t turn a blind eye,” Associate Professor Walker said.
“There is no evidence to suggest these issues are widespread, however we still have work to do to ensure staff understand the standards both the community and the organisation expect from their ambulance service workers.
“Over the past two years, we have implemented significant improvements to our drug policies, controls and testing to prevent such issues being repeated and these reforms have been acknowledged by IBAC in this report.
“Ambulance Victoria is already a better organisation for the IBAC investigation and we will continue to work on improvements.”
Significant changes Ambulance Victoria has made over the past two years include:
- introducing a new Alcohol and Other Drugs Policy and Procedures, including AOD and psychometric testing for the first time for all new recruits
- establishing a Professional Conduct Unit to strengthen the management of professional conduct reporting and investigation, and
- increasing drug security and auditing including measures to make branches and medicine rooms more secure.
To give the Victorian community full confidence in the measures to address the IBAC Report recommendations, Ambulance Victoria has asked former Acting Police Chief Commissioner Tim Cartwright, APM, to evaluate the work done to date and provide independent oversight of Ambulance Victoria’s response to the IBAC recommendations.
A program of random drug testing of AV staff will also commence immediately. This will be supported by further training and communication to build staff awareness and understanding of what’s required of them, and the support available to individuals who have an issue with alcohol or other drugs.
“Drug and alcohol use is an issue in the wider community and all employers need to be prepared to manage these issues in their workforce,” Associate Professor Walker said.