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Ministers Call For Reports

Hon Annette King
Minister of Health

Media Statement
16 June 2000

Ministers Call For Reports

Customs Minister Phillida Bunkle and Health Minister Annette King have called for reports into an inter-agency operation which involved Kaitaia Hospital this week.

Phillida Bunkle has apologised to the chief executive of Northland Health for the inconvenience caused when the operation unintentionally sparked an alert at Kaitaia Hospital.

"I am pleased with the chief executive's assurance that although it caused inconvenience, patients were never at risk," Phillida Bunkle said.

The Customs-led tactical response exercise, based on the scenario of a ship carrying a suspected cargo of illegal immigrants, unintentionally alerted health authorities in the Northland region.

Kaitaia Hospital, through advice from other agencies involved in the operation, was asked to be on stand by for passengers from the boat. Hospital authorities were not aware the operation was an exercise only.

"As far as front line staff involved in the exercise were concerned, the operation was real. It appears the situation became a little too real," Phillida Bunkle said.

Eight patients who were due to be discharged by Thursday morning, were declared fit and well to be discharged on Wednesday.

Annette King said while unhappy at the inconvenience to patients, she was pleased to be assured of their good health and safety.

"The patients were checked and declared well enough to be discharged, and follow up calls to those patients have confirmed they are well," Annette King said.

Both Ministers said they were pleased the hospital's own contingency plans for responding to such a situation worked perfectly.

Phillida Bunkle said the tactical response exercise was an important part of ensuring New Zealand agencies are ready to respond to the threat posed by people and craft trying to gain illegal entry into the country.


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