Paramedics urged to dob in colleagues over drink, drugs as random testing policy starts

Ambulance Employees Association secretary Steve McGhie. Picture: Mark Stewart

PARAMEDICS are being told to dob in colleagues they believe are drunk or drug-affected, as a hardline new random drug-testing policy comes into force.

From tomorrow, Ambulance ­Victoria will have the power to ­demand random drug tests, including hair samples, from all staff.

But in a loophole similar to the AFL’s self-reporting system, anyone who confesses to being under the ­influence of alcohol or drugs at work will receive support services instead of punishment.

Ambulance Employees Association secretary Steve McGhie slammed the new policy as “unnecessary” and a slur on the professionalism of Victorian ambos.

“Paramedics would probably think it’s a bit of a slur to think they might come to work under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and to be tested when, really, what they live for is to look after their patients and to treat their patients well,” he said.

“We don’t see a need for it, in particular alcohol testing, because we’ve never had an incident in recent years where a paramedic has been under the influence of alcohol. I think paramedics view themselves, and certainly the public view them, as one of the most trusted professions.”

The new Ambulance Victoria policy states an employee must “advise a manager if they believe a work colleague not fit for duty due to alcohol and/or other drug consumption”.

It also gives the ambulance service the power to force employees to “provide bodily fluid samples, breath, oral fluid (saliva), urine and/or hair, where directed to do so”.

But the new rules give paramedics the option of confessing to being intoxicated or drug-affected at work before they are approached to be tested.

“Employees reporting their own or others’ use of AOD (Alcohol and Other Drugs) … will not be penalised or disadvantaged by such reporting,” the policy states.

Ambulance Victoria acting chief executive Mark Rogers said the policy was in line with Victoria Police rules. “The new policy requires employees responding to patients to be free from the effects of alcohol or other drugs, and maintain a breath-alcohol content of 0.00,” he said.

“Substance misuse exists throughout society and, like any workplace, we are not immune.

“We must, however, ensure the risks posed by alcohol and other drug use do not impact public safety or the health, safety and wellbeing of ­employees.”

Health Minister Jill Hennessy said she supported the new policy.

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