THE Health Service Executive and the ambulance service have said they will co-operate with a garda investigation into a missing batch of the opiate painkiller morphine at an ambulance base.
An audit of drugs at a base in Leinster showed up a discrepancy in the amount of morphine allotted to the facility.
Morphine is assigned to qualified advanced paramedics who sign the drug out at the start of their tour of duty and then it is locked in a concealed safe in the ambulances.
Medics use morphine to treat high levels of pain but it is addictive and comes from the same family as heroin.
It is understood that a regular drugs audit took place at the base within the past six months and it was determined that there was a missing batch of morphine sulphate.
This weekend the HSE confirmed that an investigation was under way but refused to comment any further.
A 13-page document is used as a code of practice in the administering of morphine at ambulance bases.
The document outlines in full the practices and procedures expected of ambulance service staff when dealing with the drug.
A dedicated 'drug station record book' must be available in the base and must be filled out by medics when taking morphine from the drugs cabinet.
The document is explicit in its rules regarding misplaced morphine. "In the event that an advanced paramedic loses any stock of morphine and/or midazolam from the vehicle, this should be reported immediately to ambulance control.
"Ambulance control must advise An Garda Siochana and the relevant officer, as per area protocol."
A high-ranking emergency services source said last night that problems with access to morphine had arisen on a number of previous occasions.
"It is not known if there is a sinister element to this or not – it could be a case of a clerical error but it is a very serious problem," the source said.