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MRS CARNELL: This is almost exactly the same question as I answered last week; but the figures have changed somewhat, because last week I told you that 10 per cent of VMOs had signed contracts. That figure has now doubled. We are now up to 20 per cent. The number is increasing every day. Yes; when all the contracts are in and when we have a reconciliation, it will be tabled. Certainly, I would assume, as I said before, that the Public Accounts Committee and the Estimates Committee will look at it fully.

Woden Valley Hospital Car Park - Needle Incident

MR KAINE: Mr Speaker, through you, I direct a question to the Chief Minister and Minister for Health and Community Care. Minister, are you aware of a report of a needle stick injury that occurred in the Woden Valley Hospital area this week? If so, what were the circumstances; and what is your department doing to reduce the risk of such a thing happening again?

MRS CARNELL: This was a very regrettable incident. The boy was injured when another child found a needle hidden in a hedge and, in the play that followed, the boy was stabbed in the palm of his left hand. His mother took the child to a doctor at the Alcohol and Drug Service clinic, who immediately disinfected the wound and advised the mother to take the child for a hepatitis vaccination. This occurred. Testing for other infections will occur, obviously, over the next few months. The incident occurred in a small car park at the hospital which is not for public use, although it is quite often used by the clientele of a nearby service.

The hospital grounds are regularly scoured for needles which have been improperly disposed of. The Alcohol and Drug Service regularly advises injecting drug-using clients to dispose of needles in sharps containers provided in the hospital clinic. Thankfully, most do so. I have asked for more sharps disposal units to be provided outside the clinic and for the clinic to advise clients, through the client representative groups, not to drop needles and certainly not to hide them in hedges. I understand that on Tuesday afternoon the incident was discussed with client representatives, who expressed their concern and will talk with their members.

Clinic staff are also monitoring the use of drugs around the clinic to discourage this occurring again. I have asked the Alcohol and Drug Service to brief me on further action which can be taken to eliminate this sort of incident in the future. It should be noted that most drug users do dispose of their syringes either in sharps disposal units or at needle exchanges. A few irresponsible users just drop them; and it is not uncommon, unfortunately, for people to find syringes. When this occurs, people should contact the Department of Urban Services sharps hotline on 207 5959, listed in the White Pages, which has procedures and equipment to dispose of needles. The public should take great care when handling needles, and parents should warn children not to play with such objects.

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