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Traces of asbestos found in Westport Health Facilities

Thursday 29 August 2019Media release3 minutes to read

Please attribute to Philip Wheble, General Manager – West Coast District Health Board

West Coast DHB has closed off the service tunnel, service cupboards and restricted access to the Pakington Street Energy Centre at the Buller Health facility after testing confirmed the presence of asbestos.

The asbestos was detected after specialist asbestos assessors were contracted to carry out an asbestos survey of the existing facility in relation to the demolition required for the new Buller Health facility.

Immediately on receiving the survey results last month, we restricted access to the affected areas as a precaution before undertaking further assessment work, including extensive swab sample testing and air testing. Very few staff and no patients have access to any of these areas and so potential exposure to asbestos has been limited to some maintenance staff and contractors.

Asbestos can pose a risk to health when the fibres have been disturbed and people are regularly exposed to them (most commonly people who are exposed to loose asbestos fibres frequently). We have been working closely with our staff that regularly access these areas and have offered them health checks, further information, counselling and other support as appropriate.

External environmental experts will be engaged as part of the asbestos containing material management plan, with the view to analyse the most appropriate decontaminating/encapsulating procedures leading up to the planned demolition associated with the building of the new Buller Health facility.

To reiterate, no members of the public have had access to the areas where asbestos fibres have been found, and the decontamination/encapsulation processes will not expose anyone but the specialist contractors to asbestos – and they will use appropriate protective equipment.

The Buller Medical Centre building, currently occupied by our general practice and allied health services, has also been identified as having asbestos containing materials (ACMs) obstructing the ceiling access hatches used for maintenance and repair. Although the building is considered safe to occupy because the asbestos is contained in the roof space, because of the location of the ACMs, we need to close the facility to undertake any urgent repairs, maintenance or cleaning that would require entry to the roof space.

As this could potentially be disruptive to service delivery, we have decided to relocate these services as part of the planned decamp and demolition needed to make way for construction of the new facility.

We are currently developing a decant allocation plan which we will share with the Buller community once the details have been confirmed. The relocation of services will be a staged process to minimise the disruption to services.



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Page last updated: 28 August 2019

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