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Health advice following West Coast Floods – Update 2

Sunday 18 July 2021Health news10 minutes to read

Sunday 18 July 2021 – 8.00pm

 Please attribute comment to Philip Wheble, Incident Controller, West Coast DHB


Buller Health remains closed and is likely to be closed for at least a week due to flood water damaging the centre’s boiler-house and getting into the tunnels under the health centre. The boiler-house provides the energy to heat the facility and is also the source of hot water for the health centre.

An Emergency Operations Centre has been set up within Buller Health where some portable heaters can be used. The Health Centre itself doesn’t appear to be too badly damaged. It’s expected the grounds are going to require a significant clean up once the water recedes.

We hope to be back up and running at Buller Health from Monday 26 July – this is yet to be confirmed and will depend on how fast we can dry out and carry out the essential repairs in the Boilerhouse.

In the meantime, a temporary medical ward has been set up in Club Buller in Queen Street and will remain operational this week.

Some of the patients who spent last night in Club Buller (after being transferred from Foote Ward at Buller Health) have now been safely transferred to Te Nīkau Hospital in Greymouth by St John Ambulance by road, with some travelling by helicopter – depending on their condition. One person has been discharged home.

There are currently 3 patients in the makeshift ward. Additional staff have arrived from Greymouth to relieve the local team who can now rest and see how their homes have fared in the flooding.

Some hospital beds have been transported by Unimog to the temporary ‘Club Buller’ health facility for use by the seriously ill patients who are more comfortable in an adjustable bed rather than a mattress on the floor.

  • If you need health advice please call Healthline on 0800 611 116 – calls are answered 24/7
  • If you need to be seen, they will tell you what to do and where to go.
  • If it’s an emergency, call 111 as per usual
  • For wellbeing support you can talk to a counsellor free of charge, call or text 1737 any time of the day or night.
  • For pregnancy support and advice over the phone, please call your LMC/midwife.
  • You can also visit our HealthInfo website for trusted health advice on a range of issues.

 Primary health care – a pop-up drop-in clinic to open in Westport, Monday – Friday

A primary care drop in clinic staffed by a GP and nurses will be open this week at the COVAX vaccination clinic at 51 Russell Street, Westport.

*Note they will not be giving COVID-19 vaccinations. All vaccinations have been cancelled this week in Westport.

The clinic opens tomorrow morning, Monday 19 July at 11am – 4.30pm and then from Tuesday until Friday it will be open from 10 until 4.30pm.

Everyone with urgent health care needs is welcome to attend – no appointment necessary.

If you have a respiratory illness and are coming to the clinic, please wear a mask or face covering.

And if it’s an emergency, please call 111 – emergency services are operating.

Information for people with Outpatient appointments at Buller Health or GP appointments at Buller Medical (the primary care practice) on Monday 19 or Tuesday July 20 2021

If you have a pre-booked appointment with a GP or nurse at Buller Medical on Monday or Tuesday an outpatient appointment this week at Buller Health please consider it postponed – unless you hear otherwise.

A limited number of outpatient appointments are going ahead at an alternative location, and anyone affected will be contacted directly.

Please note that there is no X-Ray facility at Buller Health this week.

If you need an urgent blood test or repeat prescriptions please visit the temporary Urgent Care clinic.

Buller Pharmacy in Westport, at 168 Palmerston Street will be open tomorrow for over the counter medications and health advice.

Meals on Wheels for Buller recipients

West Coast DHB prepares Meals on Wheels for around 60 people in the district each weekday. They are delivered by volunteer drivers coordinated by Red Cross.

Our team has been calling recipients today to check if meals are still needed this week, as we know many people have moved in with family or friends or are at a welfare centre.

If you, or someone you know usually gets Meals on Wheels delivered and you haven’t already heard from us, please call us on 03 769 7759 to let us know if you still need meals delivered this week.

Planned COVID-19 vaccinations in Westport postponed next week

To allow staff time to support the health team in the recovery from the floods, all COVID-19 vaccination clinics planned to take place in Westport this coming week (week commencing 19 July) have had to be cancelled. The team will be calling those affected to re-book them to the earliest available time.

Flood water

Please treat all flood water as contaminated.

  • Sewage may be mixed with flood waters and can cause serious illness.
  • That means you need to wash your hands thoroughly or use hand gel after coming into contact with flood water.
  • If your clothes are wet with flood water please put them aside to wash later on (when we’re not conserving water).
  • There is also a danger of injury from floating objects and hazards hidden below the surface. If there are power outages in your area, be wary of power lines that might be down and be even more hazardous in wet conditions.
  • Further practical advice on managing safely and cleaning up after flooding can be found here

Drinking water

A Boil Water Notice remains in place for Westport, Carters Beach and surrounds.

Westport, Carters Beach and Punakaiki are also on Conserve Water Notices, so please keep your showers short and avoid flushing the toilet, doing washing and running the dishwasher to help relieve pressure on the wastewater system.

For the latest updates on drinking water, ‘like’ your local District Council’s Facebook page, or check the latest news on their website:


  • If you lose power at any stage, avoid opening your fridge and freezers unnecessarily. If frozen food has been defrosted but has been kept chilled, it should be used as soon as possible – as if it had been bought fresh.
  • Do not refreeze high risk items such as meat, fish and poultry. If you think these high risk items may have been at room temperature for two or more hours, do not eat them – if in doubt, throw it out.

Wellbeing advice

  • Helping others and giving your time can make a big difference, whether it’s helping someone with a big clean up job or spending time talking to people about how they are doing.
  • It’s normal to feel a range of emotions, so expect those around you to be coping differently.
  • Our brains react chemically to stressful situations – releasing adrenaline which can cause us to feel shaky, queasy or on-edge and make it hard for us to concentrate. This response is our body’s alarm system – it is your body telling you to be alert and ready for action.
  • These emotions should calm – there are things you can do to help you feel better. Although it is difficult, try and keep your routine as normal as you can – especially when around children who will take their lead from you.
  • Seek help if you’re having trouble sleeping or coping with day to day activities.
  • Your own General Practice team is a good place to seek help, or for free confidential advice you can text or call 1737 any time of the day or night to speak with a counsellor.

Flood clean up advice – from the Community & Public Health team

Below are some tips to help as you embark on the clean-up if your home or property was affected by the floods over the past few days.

Public health advice for those entering homes and buildings in flood-affected areas.

  • If you need to start before an assessor can visit, take photos and make notes before you begin.
  • Later, if an agreement cannot be reached with the insurance company or you have other health concerns in relation to your home post-flooding, you can seek advice from an environmental health officer. Visit for contact details.


Before returning, ensure:

  1. That the electrical supply authority has checked the electrical installation is safe. Electrical appliances such as refrigerators, deep freezers, electrical heaters, etc., should be checked by an electrician before using.
  2. The local authority health, building, or plumbing inspectors have checked the sewerage system and the water supply.


  1. If you have gas (mains or bottle), that the gas supply has been checked.
  2. Please note: In all cases approach your insurance company prior to disposing of any goods or carrying out any restoration on your house. Assume all flood waters are sewage-polluted, so all items that have come into contact with flood waters should be treated with caution.

Check for structural damage

Has the house moved? – Look for buckled floors, new cracks in walls and door frames that are out of shape (doors may stick where they didn’t before, or be impossible to close). Remember to take photos to assist with your insurance claim.

Making your home habitable in the shortest possible time

In most cases it will take months, rather than weeks, to completely restore your home after it has been damaged by flood water. Draining, cleaning and drying out can, and should be done quickly.

First, make sure you use personal protective equipment such as waterproof gloves, gumboots and overalls/waterproofs if you have them. If mud has dried or there is mould on the walls, protect your lungs from microbes and mould by using an N95 mask/respirator. Then,

  • Clear out everything that is wet
  • Get rid of any water or mud left behind
  • Encourage quick and thorough drying by ventilating areas, and using dehumidifiers and heaters if it is safe to do so. Don’t be afraid to cut out sections of carpet, curtains or furniture fabrics that can’t be salvaged – they can be repaired. If you are cutting into gib or wallboards, take special care around sockets or switches.

Repairs should be carried out only when checks have shown the structure of the house is dry enough. Redecorating should never be rushed. Wait until the house is fit to live in, and thoroughly dry.

Cleaning indoor areas that have been flooded

Textile-based materials (blankets, sheets, drapes, clothing, etc.) which can be boiled can be reused.

Any that cannot be boiled should be thoroughly washed with the use of disinfectant or professionally dry-cleaned, after first advising anyone handling them that they have been flood-damaged. Pillows, mattresses (whether of flock, kapok, inner sprung mattresses and foam rubber mattresses) as well as soft upholstered furnishings, should be discarded after reporting to your insurers.

Removing mould

Before carrying out the following, protect yourself by using gloves and avoid splashes to the face or eyes.

  • Small amounts of mould can easily be removed using a mild solution of household bleach and water and wiping over the surface.
  • Wash or flush down walls, shelves and floors that have been submerged during a flood with clean water and use a brush to remove contaminated water and sediment.
  • Use a solution of 1 litre of household bleach in 10 litres of water to rinse down walls, floors, other hard surfaces and non-electrical equipment. Leave on for 30 minutes before rinsing with clear water.
  • Keep windows open during this treatment.



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Page last updated: 18 July 2021

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