Used needles found near primary school

CIARA PRATT
Last updated 05:00 14/02/2013
Gail Ellison
CIARA PRATT/ Fairfax NZ
NEEDLE DISCOVERY: Gail Ellison and her husband Graham found used needles near a local primary school.

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A couple wants the issue of safe needle disposal to be addressed after finding used needles opposite a primary school.

Graham and Gail Ellison were alerted to the problem on an empty section opposite Avondale Primary School. 

The needles were exposed and the syringes contained blood. 

Ellison said children regularly walk by the section and she was worried they could be injured. 

''We went to the Avondale police station twice and both times it was closed and when we called them they said they would look into it but four days later the needles were still there.''

The Ellisons also contacted Auckland Council and the Auckland Regional Public Health Service but were told the needles were on private property and could not be collected  for fear of trespassing. 

''We picked them up while wearing gloves because no-one else was going to do it. These needles were really big."

The Ellisons took the syringes to a sharps-disposal bin at Diabetes Auckland headquarters and said they only knew to do that because of their history with diabetes. 

Ellison has suffered from type-1 diabetes for 56 years and is co-ordinator of the Avondale and New Lynn Diabetes Support Group.

The New Lynn residents said safe sharps-disposal facilities are also needed in Auckland free of charge for diabetes sufferers. 

''The Government pays for drug addicts to get rid of their needles for free but diabetics have to pay every month for containers to get rid of them safely,'' Graham said.

Diabetes can be an expensive disease to maintain if you look after yourself properly, he said.

''I'm not allowed to work because of my diabetes and elderly people especially struggle with the ongoing cost of sharps-disposal containers.''

Containers for sharps-disposal can range in price from $5 to $15 and it can also cost to return them once they are full.

Diabetes New Zealand Auckland branch manager Ruth Davy believes this is one of the biggest health issues in the country. 

''There is no good regional co-ordinated system in Auckland or a safe service for free sharps-disposal for diabetics.''

Davy said only some pharmacies will take sharps containers back after distributing them. 

''People are being told to put them in a hard container and put them in the bin. There is the risk of someone getting hurt or infected with hepatitis B if these needles come loose.

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''That is not best practice or safe healthcare,'' she said.

Avondale police Senior Sergeant Ross Endicott-Davies said in matters like this the police would usually intervene and remove the needles. 

''If it is deemed to be dangerous litter we would deal with it and we have the means to dipose of the items correctly.'' 

Ian Milnes, Auckland Council's southern licensing and compliance manager, said the council would also be able to remove the syringes in this situation. 

''If there was an immediate risk, we would investigate and abate that straight away and under the Health Act we could dispose of the needles appropriately. 

''Unfortunately these people were given incorrect information and we are ensuring our call centres now have the correct information.''

- Auckland Now

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