Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Government rejects Opposition doubts over water supply

St Bernard’s Hospital

Government this weekend set out to reassure any patients, their families or members of the general public “who may have been unduly concerned by the alarmist and inaccurate comments made by the Opposition” in respect of the water supply at St Bernard’s Hospital.

In a statement they said that it is untrue for the Opposition to state that the problems “continue”.

The health ministry says that the cause of the problems was identified and remedial action taken shortly after dissolved copper was found within the hospital water supply system.

“We find it regrettable that the Opposition have not sought information from the GHA (as they do on other matters) before making the alarmist comments but have obviously preferred to remain in ignorance in order to try to score political points by making such false criticisms,” said the spokesman.

The health ministry spokesman explained that when higher than normal dissolved copper in parts of the hospital water system was identified on the 1 July, the Gibraltar Health Authority (GHA) took immediate steps to safeguard staff and patients. A ban on drinking water was introduced in the affected areas of buildings 3 and 4 and then as an added precaution extended to the whole hospital.

Supplies of bottled water were delivered immediately to all wards and departments and further tests continued during the 2 and 3 July. When these tests confirmed that there were still problems with the water supply, a public statement was issued on 4 July, he said.

Following this, a detailed and ongoing exhaustive investigation has been carried out by the GHA together with the contractor, the design team and water treatment specialists from the UK.

“Independent laboratories outside Gibraltar have also been involved throughout in water testing. Throughout the period of July and August, the hospital’s water system, including tanks and pumps, have been systematically inspected, examined and tested.

This investigation is intended to establish all the factors that have contributed to the problem. Pending the results of such investigation the Government and GHA have refrained, and will continue to refrain, from making any further comments,” he said.

“Although the original cause of the problem had been identified and rectified, it was established that residual dissolved copper remained in some parts of the water supply system. In order to guarantee that the excess copper levels were removed, the whole system has been flushed out. This has taken some time as we have taken care not to inconvenience patients and staff and GHA technical staff have wanted to ensure that the flushing was comprehensive and systematic.

The extensive tests that have been carried out show that the copper levels are now back to normal throughout the system.

Once these results are corroborated by the Public Analyst and independent laboratory, it is expected that the system will shortly become fully operational and the ban on drinking water rescinded.”

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