City audit reveals Sacramento Fire's error in tracking morphine

A report just released by the Sacramento City Auditor's Office revealed that Sacramento City Fire Department failed to appropriately track dozens of vials of morphine.

The auditor recommended that the department consider random drug testing.

Last December, according to the city auditor, records from the Sacramento City Fire's EMS Office showed that 100 vials of morphine were not appropriately accounted for.

It took the fire department nearly five months to figure out what happened to the unaccounted vials. It was discovered that the vials did not go "missing." They were not inappropriately used or abused. But instead, a clerical error was to blame.

"They made a mathematical error in their calculation," Sacramento City Auditor Jorge Oseguera said.

The audit also claimed fire staff members were not verifying the number of morphine vials in their inventory.

Oseguera believed that error by city fire staff in the EMS division highlighted the need for random drug testing in the fire department.

"We recognize there is a potential risk of narcotics," Oseguera said. "We did not, let me be clear, find that the Fire Department misused narcotics or any evidence that there had been abuse of narcotics."

"The fire department feels we have adequate checks and balances in place," Sacramento City Fire spokesperson Roberto Padilla said. "We already have a program that is used to drug test somebody we feel calls for it."

Padilla added, "We caught this problem long before the audit came out. And we rewrote policy immediately after we caught it, including how we document narcotics."

The auditor believes Sacramento can follow the lead of other fire departments like San Francisco, San Diego, Phoenix and Boston by implementing random drug testing. The program would cost roughly $3,000 a year.

"For that cost, I think the benefit would be significant," Oseguera said. "The deterrent alone would be worthwhile."

The Sacramento City Fire Department said it will consider the recommendation made by the city auditor and then talk to their labor union at a later date.


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