Doctor’s secret stash: Anaesthetist swipes 500+ doses
An anaesthetist who secretly swiped more than 500 doses of a potent painkiller meant for his surgical patients for his own personal use is still allowed to practise medicine.
Adam John Hicks, from Sherwood, is serving court-ordered two years probation for stealing 74 ampoules of the synthetic opioid fentanyl from the Mater hospital at South Brisbane and from Toowoomba hospital between September 2018 and February 2019.
Dr Hicks, who practises from Greenslopes in Brisbane's south, hid his theft of ampoules - each holding 500 micrograms of the drug - by pretending he was giving the painkillers to his patients during or after surgery, but failing to give the drugs, according to documents filed by the medical watchdog in a disciplinary hearing in the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT).
The Office of the Health Ombudsman (OHO) has asked the QCAT to find Dr Hicks guilty of professional misconduct, based on his guilty plea to two counts of stealing and two counts of possessing drugs in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on November 26 last year.
He was sentenced to two years probation and fined $2000. No conviction was recorded.
Dr Hicks was busted in February 2019 when James Beit, the director of the anaesthetics department at Toowoomba hospital, found 19 ampoules were missing during his audit of the operating theatre drug safe, according to the medical watchdog's application to QCAT.
Dr Hicks signed out the fentanyl from the "centralised operating theatre drug safe" but "failed to administer them in the relevant medical procedure", according to the medical watchdog's application filed in QCAT.
Five days after Dr Beit's audit, Catherine Gilbert, the assistant director of pharmacy at the Mater hospital found five of Dr Hicks' patients in the "post anaesthetic care unit" were "not given" the five ampoules of the drug Dr Hicks had signed out for them on February 14, 2019, and she later reported Dr Hicks to police.
A Queensland Police audit found Dr Hicks stole a total of 55 ampoules from the Mater "for his own personal use" between September 2018 and February 2019.
Based on a daily dose of 700mcg, this amounts to 528 doses.
Dr Hicks admitted he "misappropriated the fentanyl" from the Mater and Toowomba hospitals when he contacted the OHO in February 2019.
He began working at Toowoomba hospital as an anaesthetist in 2017 and on a temporary contract as an anaesthetist at the Mater in July 2017.
The US Drug Enforcement Agency has blamed fentanyl as the "primary driver" behind the US opioid crisis, because it is cheaper and up to fifty times more potent than heroin.
It is the drug that caused the deaths of musicians Prince and Tom Petty.
Dr Hicks has until August 26 to file his response to the QCAT application which alleges he may be unfit to practise.
He is currently allowed to practise but since May 6 the Medical Board of Australia slapped him with strict conditions, banning him from prescribing or possessing any "drugs of dependency" and forcing him to have a senior doctor supervise all his work, according to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency register.
Dr Hicks practises from Greenslopes in Brisbane's south and he completed his medical degree at James Cook University in 2007 and became a fellow of the College of Anaesthetists in 2016, the register states.
Originally published as Doctor's secret stash: Anaesthetist swipes 500+ doses