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Health Minister Concerned Over Malfunction

MEDIA RELEASE
EMBARGOED UNTIL 8PM 12 JULY 1999

Hon Wyatt Creech

Minister of Health

12 July 1999
Health Minister Concerned Over Cleaning Malfunction

"It seriously concerns me that hundreds of people in the Canterbury region are faced with blood screening tests because of a cleaning malfunction with Canterbury Health's endoscopy machine.

"The public expects people working in hospitals to take the care needed to ensure quality and standards in services provided," Health Minister Wyatt Creech said tonight.

"While my health officials advise me that this step is precautionary and the risks of anyone being infected are, in this case, very very low, such failures are concerning and unsettling.

"I have spoken this afternoon to the Acting Chair of Canterbury Health and expressed my concern. I have asked Canterbury Health to ensure there is a proper internal inquiry into the matter.

"The Ministry of Health's Chief Medical Advisor is also working closely with Canterbury Health on this issue to ensure people get the care, reassurance and any counselling they require.

"An international expert brought in by the Ministry to advise on the situation says the increased risk of infection is minimal.

"In addition the Ministry of Health is reminding all hospitals to check the quality control processes involved in disinfection of endoscopes.

"The Ministry has advised me that it is confident that appropriate standards for cleaning of endoscopes were in place in New Zealand hospitals, and that they were generally well-observed."

The Ministry of Health is contacting all endoscopy units to reinforce the need for good quality control and auditing. This follows a letter written late last year to the Gastroenterology Society about appropriate standards to control the risk of transmission of disease through endoscopes.

ENDS

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