Pukekohe health scare delay frustrates parents

Pukekohe parents are annoyed a serious infection scare was kept from them for nine days.

Their children may be at risk of developing hepatitis or HIV after a fault at a dental clinic and the Health Board knew about it, but didn't tell the parents immediately.

Faulty equipment at Pukekohe Intermediate Dental Clinic may have been cross contaminating blood and saliva.

Now all 2500 kids treated there since the last equipment check in September need to be screened for Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV.

"We don't believe the problem arose in mid September, but probably arose in January," says Dr Gloria Johnson from the Counties Manukau DHB.

"We really are erring on the side of caution."

The faulty dental equipment was discovered on January 23.

Questions are now being asked over why it took so long to alert parents and ask them to bring their children to the hospital for testing, or back to the dental clinic.

Mum Rosie Richards first heard about it all on Facebook on Tuesday night.

"I couldn't believe it really, and just a concern that I couldn't believe it was happening to us," she says.

The DHB says it needed time to figure out the problem and the risks to the small, tight-knit community.

It planned on going public on Wednesday morning with helplines and testing centres, but its hand was forced.

"There was some kind of leak and we don't know how that happened," Dr Johnson says.

Equipment checks are now being done at dental clinics nationwide, but it's the Pukekohe children facing the needle.

It'll take three weeks to test all the children.