Operation Tone: special report concerning drug use and associated corrupt conduct involving Ambulance Victoria paramedics

18 Sep 2017

This report concerns an investigation into allegations that Ambulance Victoria (AV) paramedics engaged in serious corrupt conduct, namely the theft, trafficking and use of drugs of dependence, and misappropriation of AV equipment.

Many paramedics are exemplars of their profession. However, Operation Tone has identified a culture of illicit drug use and misappropriation of AV equipment by individuals and among certain groups, particularly in the Barwon South West region.

Based on evidence obtained during the investigation, IBAC believes it is probable that this conduct occurs beyond that identified in this investigation.

Illicit drug use by paramedics is concerning on several fronts:

  • Illicit drug use, possession and trafficking are criminal offences and contravene the Code of Conduct for Victorian Public Sector Employees and the AV Workplace Conduct Policy. A paramedic who procures and uses illicit drugs is, by definition, engaging in criminal conduct.
  • The use of drugs of dependence undermines the safety of the Victorian community. It is imperative that a paramedic’s judgement and performance not be impaired by illicit drugs, particularly when they are dealing with patients. The use of drugs of dependence also poses a safety risk for individual users and their AV colleagues. Since 2012, fentanyl or morphine have been involved in three paramedic deaths in Victoria.
  • The use of drugs of dependence erodes public confidence in AV.

AV has proactively responded to the vulnerabilities identified in Operation Tone. When IBAC commenced its investigation in November 2015, AV’s capacity to identify and expose at-risk paramedics was initially limited. During IBAC’s investigation, AV introduced new policies and practices to minimise opportunities for the possession, use and misappropriation of drugs of dependence. New AV policies and practices also limit the opportunity for misappropriation
of AV equipment.

AV has advised it accepts the content of this report and the recommendations made. AV also advised it has continued to implement initiatives to address illicit drug use and misuse of drugs of dependence since the completion of IBAC's investigation.

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