The doctor had returned to work after having been temporarily removed from his position but had to be dismissed following “an incident”, according to head of the provincial hospitals group Kabeg Arnold Gabriel.
Gabriel stressed that at no time was a patient in danger, although a report in Heute newspaper suggests that the doctor had wanted to use the wrong infusion for a patient, according to a nurse who spotted the mistake. The nurse also reportedly thought the doctor appeared confused and reported the incident to superiors.
The board of the hospital group were told on Wednesday that the drug-dependent senior doctor had been dismissed following a relapse.
According to Heute, the doctor – an anesthesiologist – was addicted to opiates and the strong anesthetic drug Propofol, the same drug that contributed to the death of Michael Jackson. The newspaper also claimed that the doctor was working in Klinikum Klagenfurt, although Kabeg hospital group have not confirmed the name of the institution citing privacy.
Kabeg and provincial government health officer Beate Prettner (SPÖ) has since been criticised by the Freedom Party (FPÖ) for allowing the doctor to return to work despite the fact they knew he was struggling with a drug addiction problem.
FPÖ politician Gernot Darmann has called for an investigation, arguing: “Carinthian patients have a right to learn what really happened and above all which roll the health officer played in this.”
Kabeg boss Gabriel argued, however, that drug dependency is a common occurrence in the medical profession.
“It is not an isolated case,” he told Kleine Zeitung, adding that drug dependent medical staff can be found in every hospital.
In such cases, the protocol of the Kabeg hospital group is to remove the employer from the patient treatment processes, provide them with drug addiction therapy and then aim to reinstate them after recovery.
“After successful therapy and a report, the employment can start again,” said Gabriel.
Although there are no definite figures on the number of medical staff who suffer from drug dependency in Austria, in Germany there could be as many as 25,000, according to German newspaper Welt.