WA hospitals have boosted security after a man posing as a doctor, wearing "scrubs'' and a stethoscope walked into a Royal Perth Hospital operating theatre and stole dangerous drugs.
Health Minister Kim Hames yesterday confirmed existing security measures "have been strengthened'' after the brazen theft last month of a quantity of the drug that killed pop star Michael Jackson.
He also revealed that since July 2011, "eight matters of suspected theft of drugs by employees'' in WA's public health system, had been reported to the Corruption and Crime Commission, with two substantiated and the remainder still under investigation.
Clinicians told The Sunday Times they were worried for patient safety, describing last month's theft as a "major breach of security'', after the man "simply walked into the hospital off the street'' at about 8.30am on April 22. They said he was wearing "scrubs'' -- or a medical uniform -- and a stethoscope, and that he took a lift to the theatres where he stole the potentially lethal drug propofol from an unsecured cupboard.
The Sunday Times understands the man was only caught because police stopped him for driving erratically. It is believed he has faced charges of theft and trespassing at other hospitals.
The clinicians said the incident came as a "damning'' yet-to-be-released draft report by the Auditor-General on securing drugs in hospitals was being circulated. And the clinicians said it also followed a 2010 CCC report which had described "widespread loss of easily abused Schedule 4 drugs across public hospitals, including RPH''.
Dr Hames played down the latest incident, saying propofol was not listed under the Poisons Act as a medication that "required secure storage''.
But clinicians pointed out it was the powerful surgical anaesthetic that killed Jackson in 2009.
Dr Hames said WA hospitals constantly monitored their security needs and already had a range of appropriate measures to "ensure the safety of patients and staff".
"These measures have been strengthened following this incident,'' he said. "I am confident that appropriate security measures are in place in all our hospitals but there is obviously always room for improvement.
"We will continue to review security around hospital theatres to minimise the risk of future incidents.
Dr Hames said such incidents were "rare'', but conceded that RPH was "fully investigating the incident and will make any necessary changes to its security''.
He would not comment on the Auditor-General's draft report because he said that would be "inappropriate as this report is not yet finalised''.
Opposition police spokeswoman Michelle Roberts said it was extremely worrying that "just anyone'' could access theatres and the incident raised serious concerns about patient safety and infection control, as well as the theft of dangerous drugs.
Australian Medical Association WA president David Mountain said it was "always a concern when people come off the street and manage to do this''. He was pleased Dr Hames had acted on the latest incident.
Dear Drugs-Forum readers: We are a small non-profit that runs one of the most read drug information & addiction help websites in the world. We serve over 4 million readers per month, and have costs like all popular websites: servers, hosting, licenses and software. To protect our independence we do not run ads. We take no government funds. We run on donations which average $25. If everyone reading this would donate $5 then this fund raiser would be done in an hour. If Drugs-Forum is useful to you, take one minute to keep it online another year by donating whatever you can today. Donations are currently not sufficient to pay our bills and keep the site up. Your help is most welcome. Thank you.