Name-calling, harassing phone calls and emails, rude remarks on Facebook and comparisons to Nazi Germany and the Syrian government.
Waikato District Health Board staff are being subjected to personal attacks by anti-fluoride bullies - and they have had enough.
The lobbying by the anti-fluoridationists has prompted health board chief executive Craig Climo to call on his staff to keep away from a Hamilton City Council-organised public meeting about community water fluoridation next Monday.
The reason, he said, was simple: ''My team are the subject of ongoing personal attacks from the anti-fluoridationists and I won't expose them further.''
Although he was reluctant to divulge details, some of the more offensive remarks played on the names of staff members ''in a way that implies they are incompetent.''
Mr Climo said he was not sure if the name-callers were members of Fluoride Free Hamilton, although that group also had a record of ''saying silly things''.
Rude remarks had also recently been posted on the health board's Facebook page, however these were usually quickly removed by communications director Mary Anne Gill before many people had a chance to see them.
Some had likened the health board to the Nazis and the Syrian regime, she said.
Medical officer of health Felicity Dumble said city councillors asked their staff to organise the meeting after they decided to hold a referendum on returning fluoride to the public water supply.
The meeting's purpose would be to provide an opportunity for the health board and Fluoride Free Hamilton to present their positions on the referendum question.
''Past experience tells us that these meetings are disrupted by those opposed and it is an unpleasant experience for the health professionals who attend trying to get the science across to an audience who have fixed opinions based on misinformation,'' Dr Dumble said.
''We're well past arguing about the science and the reality is fluoride has been in Hamilton's water supply for nearly 50 years with the only health effect being less tooth decay.''
Dr Dumble said she was also frustrated by claims the health board agreed to the tribunal process in the first instance.
''Last year, when the Hamilton City Council was considering how to address the community water fluoridation issue, the Waikato DHB recommended they consult with the public through a referendum - not a tribunal.''
A small vocal minority is given the same weight as the vast majority of dentists, doctors and scientists regarding the issues of oral health, medicine and the science.
''The DHB encourages every eligible voter to have their say on the issue now the Hamilton City Council is giving them the opportunity.''
The health board also invited people to visit www.waikatodhb.health/nz/fluoride or www.fluoridefacts.govt.nz for more facts on Fluoride. For the alternative view, go to www.fannz.org.nz.
DHB 'DUCKING FOR COVER'
Fluoride Free Hamilton co-ordinator Pat McNair says the health board's allegations of rude and bullying behaviour don't stack up.
''We have not seen or heard any evidence of anything like this at all,'' she told the Times. ''Historically the excuse used by the Waikato District Health Board to not attend public meetings has been 'that there is no controversy over fluoride'. Now that excuse has obviously changed and they seem to be ducking for cover, as their arguments do not stand up to public scrutiny. The Hamilton City Councillors found that out when the DHB had to front up at the tribunal.
''We are appalled that they will not even deign to come out to the public and explain their position, since they are publicly funded and since the prime minister has said he has no problems with referenda, so long as people had access to all information.
''We will be fronting up on the 30th regardless.''
- © Fairfax NZ News
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