Earlier this month AV targeted an AEAV member and threatened the member with being stood down if they refused to be hair tested. The manager in attendance told the member that it was because of over-administration of Fentanyl. The member asked for the evidence on which this “reasonable belief” was founded but AV has refused to provide it.
Ambulance Victoria’s policies and procedures regarding targeted drug testing are based on the premise that you can be obliged to undergo hair testing if there is a “reasonable belief” that an AOD issue may be presenting.
The key question here is who gets to decide if there is a reasonable belief and on what basis. You may be surprised to learn that you are not allowed to know what that reasonable belief is based on. AV makes these decisions behind closed doors and refuses to justify their reasonable belief. Every AV staff member is at risk of being targeted by the PCU and being singled out on the basis of a secret criteria.
The impact on an individual’s mental health after being targeted by AV for invasive drug testing is very real. With no justification provided for the tests, employees can feel targeted and worry about why they were flagged as a potential drug user.
Further to this is the risk of testing positive to Ketamine as a result of an occupational exposure that you were not aware of. This has happened and will continue to happen. To this point AV have still failed to acknowledge that this is a risk for paramedics. The impact being increased anxiety whilst awaiting the results of the hair testing.
Secret decisions that impact your welfare and are beyond reproach, surely should not be the standard for an organisation that pumps out glossy publications spruiking values of transparency, accountability and respect.
Unbeknownst to many, AV managers receive reports on the administration rates of schedule 8 medications. If, on the basis of a secret criteria, it is deemed that you have administered too much or too often, AV can unilaterally decide to hair test you. If you refuse you will be stood down.
Historically AV would send this list to your line manager who would go through cases and ascertain if the administration of medications was appropriate with consideration of increments, total amounts and the appropriateness of the selected medication.
The failure of AV to justify the decision to hair test leaves the process open to claims of retribution, inconsistency and bias. The AEAV is disappointed to learn that AV continues to operate in such a clandestine way in the midst of VEOHRC’s review into the AV culture and particularly bullying and retribution. The conduct of PCU has been raised by many in their submissions to VEOHRC and it seems that the PCU will continue causing harm right up until the release of the report by VEOHRC.
The AEAV continues to fight for full disclosure and transparency and is pushing for written disclosure of the reasonable belief before hair testing can be conducted. This was a key component of our AOD submission to the AVEA Implementation Working Group. You can read the full submission here.
If you want to comment on this issue or you have been targeted for hair testing without disclosure of reasonable belief please contact us at [email protected] or call on 9287 1713.