Swift action by board praised

Swift action by the Southern District Health Board to withdraw mobile oral health units potentially contaminated by formaldehyde has been praised.

Public Service Association southern region organiser Julie Morton said yesterday the board's handling of the matter was excellent.

The board, which has been criticised in the past by unions for a lack of communication, had been upfront about the problem.

''For once I can say ... that the DHB is responding absolutely as they should.

''It's nice to be able to say they have done exactly what I would have asked them to do, had I needed to.''

Staff were told on Thursday afternoon. Mrs Morton had been unable to attend, but had not heard from members since, which suggested they did not hold fears about health effects.

The seven oral health units, used to provide dental care to children, were withdrawn for testing after a unit of the same design in Canterbury was found to contain high levels of formaldehyde.

The board said the risk to the general public was negligible. For staff the risk was low, although some might have experienced itchy eyes, headache or a sore throat. In some cases, it could worsen pre-existing conditions like asthma.

The affected units were brought into service between March 2010 and April 2013.

On Thursday, the board said it expected them to be out of service for about 10 days.

The source of contamination in the Canterbury unit was thought to be suspended ceiling tiles, and the board was working through a process to replace the tiles in the Southern units, medical officer of health Dr Marion Poore said.

- eileen.goodwin@odt.co.nz

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