Pukekohe Intermediate Dental Clinic Specialist public health nurses from Counties Manukau Health (CMH) have now made contact with close to 90% of the families of children who attended the Pukekohe Intermediate Dental Clinic from 13 September 2016 until it closed on 23 January 2017.
The majority of these children have now been tested for Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV following Public Health Notice following an equipment malfunction at the clinic.
“Overall, the response from parents and caregivers has been very considered given the anxiety they must have experienced. We are very grateful for their patience and support through what has been a difficult situation” says Dr Gloria Johnson, Chief Medical Officer for Counties Manukau Health.
Parents and caregivers have been advised that children who were last seen in the dental clinic after 23 October 2016 are likely to require two blood tests.
"The second blood test should be three months after the last dental appointment to ensure all infection is excluded. We will be sending blood test request forms to all parents whose child may require a second test so they can go directly to the Lab Test collection centre. All results will be reviewed by our specialist team and also be provided to the child’s General Practitioner."
Focus of the public health response now shifts to those who have not yet been able to be contacted to schedule testing.
“We have tried to make contact with some families multiple times with no success. We are aware of a small number who are out of the area and overseas and have made plans for them. We are now calling for all families who have not yet been tested to please drop in to our specialist clinic at Pukekohe Hospital from 12pm until 6pm any day this week (February 13 – 17).”
This request only applies to those families whose children attended the Pukekohe Intermediate Dental Clinic from 13 September 2016 until 23 January 2017 and who have not been tested. The specialist clinic at the Pukekohe Intermediate Dental Clinic site closed at the end of the Friday 10 February to consolidate all resources on to the Pukekohe Hospital site.
Clinic hours will also change to reflect the reduction in the number of children who remain to be tested. A decision on when to reopen the Dental Clinic to provide dental services has not yet been made by the Auckland Regional Dental Service. 
“There have been no cases of infection identified so far amongst those tests analysed and reported back to families. These results confirm our initial advice that the risk to these children is extremely low,” Dr Johnson adds.
If parents remain anxious or uncertain what to do then they are encouraged to ring Healthline on 0800 611 116.
Following on from our story in last week's issue, the Counties Manukau Health issued the below letter in response. However, the source that spoke to the Post is standing by what they had said. What are your thoughts on the topic? Email emma@thepost.nz 
"We note that yesterday's article (February 7, 2017, page 5) quotes an anonymous source as saying 'the blood and saliva contamination is not the main concern…and that we have known about the problem for the last few weeks…" This is untrue. The issue that concerns us is precisely the (very low) risk arising from the potential contamination by blood and saliva and this is clear from our public material supporting the Public Health Notice.

Further, we started advising parents only one week after the problem was noticed. The clinic was immediately closed the week prior and we consulted with experts to advise us of any risk to patients who had attended the clinic. Once we understood the risk, however small it is, we began setting up clinics for children to be tested, information for parents etc. It was a large logistical undertaking and required time to implement properly. It was nine days from the discovery of the problem until we advised parents of the issue. I would also like to add that this made absolutely no difference to the health outcomes for the children. 

We have not been "going around in circles pointing fingers at each other "—a very constructive group has been appointed to support parents' needs and those of their children. Our absolute priority throughout has been on patient safety. Experts are now working out what has happened. We know the earliest it could have occurred and are using this as a base point from which to recall children. This is the safest approach. Parents found out via media coverage that was shared via social media also via a "confidential source" forcing us go public before we could contact parents. This was not of our choice, nor of our making.

We are happy to work with you and your reporter to achieve a balance that will be truthful and reassuring to parents."

Dr Gloria Johnson , Chief Medical Officer , Counties Manukau Health