Hospital patients’ details being used to steal drugs and medicines by doctors and nurses
A number of Queensland patients have had their personal details used to illegally access and steal drugs and medications in hospitals and health centres.
- Queensland Health Ombudsman investigated nearly 40 complaints about drug theft in the last financial year
- Patient details were fraudulently used to steal the restricted or controlled drugs in multiple cases
- More than three-quarters of the matters occurred in the most populated regions, Brisbane and the Gold Coast
The Queensland Health Ombudsman investigated nearly 40 complaints about drug theft in the last financial year, and labelled the practice “a serious risk to public health and safety”.
In multiple cases, patient details were fraudulently used to steal the restricted or controlled drugs.
“For example, one practitioner working in a public health facility stole medication through an automated electronic dispensing system by entering legitimate patient details; the medication — which cannot be accessed without a patient’s information — was neither prescribed nor dispensed to the patient, but taken by the practitioner for personal use,” the ombudsman found.
The ombudsman concluded most thefts were for personal use, with more than half being medications that are considered to be the strongest in Australia — schedule 8 drugs — where possession without authority is an offence.
The ABC has asked the Health Department how many patients had their details wrongfully used and whether they had been notified.
Most of the cases of drug theft involved nurses, but doctors, paediatricians, pharmacists and a dental assistant were also investigated.
More than three-quarters of the matters occurred in Queensland’s most populated regions of Brisbane and the Gold Coast.
The ombudsman was also scathing of health services’ ability to self-regulate medications, discovering most of the thefts were not detected through audits.
“Drug control measures and audits frequently failed to identify theft of drugs, with most notifications triggered by scrutiny and vigilance from other staff members after observing anomalous drug movements or offending practitioners’ suspicious workplace behaviour,” the Ombudsman found.
A number of the cases have been referred to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency and others to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
A spokesperson for the state’s Health Department said Queensland Hospital and Health Services (HHS) were among the largest employers in the country.
“Considering the size of the organisation, instances of theft and fraud are uncommon,” the spokesperson said.
“All allegations of fraud and theft against staff are taken seriously and each HHS has robust prevention and detection procedures in place.
“Where allegations have been substantiated, appropriate disciplinary action is taken.
“Queensland Health cannot comment on individual incidents.”