Pharmacists in frontline response

Pharmacists to the Fore in Dirty Water Saga

Havelock North has been in the news recently following a gastro outbreak caused by campylobacter bacteria contaminating the town's water supply.

I spoke to two local pharmacists about their frontline response to the community crisis that saw schools closed and school weekend sports cancelled for two weeks in a row.

Tim Klingender co-owner of Gilmour's Pharmacy said;

"Fortunately none of our staff were affected. Because we were so busy on the Saturday during the worst period of the outbreak we made the decision to open on the Sunday and bring across stock from another pharmacy to meet the demand.

We supplied mainly probiotics and electrolytes. It was hard to get a complete picture of the numbers affected in the community as many people who had presented at the pharmacy had not visited their doctor.

Havelock was a ghost town during the worst week with most shops closed because everyone was sick and they needed to look after family members.

The situation was clouded by the fact there were a number of viral gastro bugs including norovirus that were circulating in the community at the same time.

It appears that the bacterial outbreak was caused by campylobacter infecting the one water bore in Havelock North. There is still no appetite from the public for chlorination or fluoridation despite the contamination.

An Autumn drought has also increased the problem with the subsequent rainy spell washing a lot of rubbish and bugs into the waterway."

Tim commended the community effort with people going the extra mile to look after elderly neighbours and those struggling with sick children.

Despite some of the reports in the media Tim felt that the Council and DHB had been very quick to respond with information, water and electrolytes and have used their pandemic planning procedures to help cope with the situation.

I also spoke to Robyn Wood from Denton's Peak Pharmacy about her experiences at the front line.

Their pharmacy was also very busy and they also opened on Sunday. They supplied a lot of electrolytes and subsequently antibiotics as many secondary infections were arising.

Robyn also thought that the DHB had done a good job with water provided and also ice blocks for young children.

"It seems as though people are taking some time to bounce back," Robyn says.

"Three of our staff had been affected by the bug one of them severely.

Staff had been fantastic at responding to the crisis and have worked exceptionally hard to meet the needs of the community."