Asbestos debris and residue discovered in a supply storeroom at Whangarei Hospital has forced its closure and staff have been told to see their doctor if they experience any breathlessness or feel unwell.
The Northland District Health Board has temporarily relocated its Central Stores operation following the asbestos discovery on high level beams in the roof last Wednesday.
Subsequent air quality tests showed normal background concentrations, but the decision was made to immediately restrict access to the building pending further investigation.
Finance, Funding and Commercial Services general manager Meng Cheong said a temporary store had been created on the hospital site.
The store contains items used daily on the wards and in the hospital offices across Northland, and includes office supplies, saline, sterile water, specimen containers, single use items like bed pans, urinals, wraps and drapes.
Syringes, single use thermometers, hand gel, liquid soap, hand towels, rubbish bags and batteries are also on the list of stored items.
"We have continued supply to all Northland DHB hospitals as normal; all external customers have been contacted and advised of the situation," Cheong said.
Two areas of the affected site have since been deemed safe and both areas have their own access and ventilation.
Cheong said while the risk was low, the health and wellbeing of staff and patients was paramount.
"Air quality testing came back as very low risk, but as a good employer we are not prepared to take any risks with our staff. Our priority was to move operations and continue supply to our hospitals."
In addition, Occupational Health Managers met the team, informed them of the risks and encouraged them to see their own doctor if they experience any breathlessness or feel unwell at all.
The current location is a temporary measure and a larger site for the medium term is being considered while the costs of fully clearing the original building is worked out.