23 Oct 2015

Asbestos tests continue at Dunedin Hospital

9:22 am on 23 October 2015

Decontamination teams will begin work at Dunedin Hospital this morning as more areas are examined for asbestos.

Asbestos warning sign on door

An asbestos warning sign on a door in Dunedin Hospital, where at least one building has tested positive for asbestos. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

Four floors of the hospital's Clinical Services Building have already tested positive but the Southern District Health Board said the material presented little to no health risk.

The asbestos was discovered as part of routine testing in the hospital.

Areas closed yesterday included the hospital's mortuary and parts of the ultrasound suite, with patient waiting rooms, changing rooms, corridors, consultants' offices and a laboratory also affected.

The DHB said it would start decontaminating the building's central stairwell this morning, and other parts of the hospital would also be tested.

Some ultrasound appointments have been postponed but one machine has been moved to an X-ray room for emergency patients.

Other parts of the hospital will be tested after the Clinical Services Building is fully assessed.

"The clinical services block is the first area to be tested... air tests have been carried out regularly over the past few years in the Clinical Services Building and all have come back negative," the DHB said.

It said the health risk was low to non-existent as no asbestos had been found in the air, and experts were advising on how best to contain and clean the affected areas.

Patients entering the hospital are being warned of the presence of asbestos in the building.

Southern District Health Board commissioner Cathy Grant told Morning Report she wasn't sure whether past patients, including pregnant women, will be notified of the possible exposure, but said the medical advice was that the level of risk is low to negligible.

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