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Tuesday, 11 February 1986
Page: 24


Senator MAGUIRE —My question is directed to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs. The Minister will be aware of recent Press reports from South Australia on the tragic outbreak in December of legionnaires disease in Adelaide's southern suburbs which resulted in two fatalities and a number of admissions to hospitals. What was the involvement of the air-conditioning plant at the Repatriation General Hospital, Daw Park, as an alleged source of the recent outbreak of legionnaires disease? Will the Minister assure Adelaide residents that all reasonable steps have been taken in conjunction with the South Australian health authorities to control the outbreak and to ensure that it never happens again?


Senator GIETZELT —Certainly the Government and the Department of Veterans' Affairs share the concern of Senator Maguire about the outbreak of legionnaires disease in Adelaide. However, the information that I have been able to examine shows that the geographical distribution of the cases of legionnaires disease in South Australia is such that the Repatriation General Hospital at Daw Park could not be-I repeat could not be-the sole source of all detected cases of infection. It is true that the causative organism of legionnaires disease was found in water samples from the cooling towers associated with the air-conditioning system at Daw Park Repatriation General Hospital. However, this is not surprising as the organism is widely distributed in nature and is commonly found in air-conditioning installations. This certainly does not mean that the outbreak began as a direct result of aerosol dispersion from the hospital facilities.

The Department of Housing and Construction has the responsibility for regular testing and preventative maintenance of all cooling towers in Department of Veterans' Affairs hospitals throughout Australia. These measures are carried out in accordance with the guidelines established by the National Health and Medical Research Council. All cooling towers at the Repatriation General Hospital, Daw Park, have been cleaned and disinfected since notification of the outbreak. Assurances have been given by the Department of Housing and Construction that there is no evidence of contamination at any cooling tower or other facility at Department of Veterans' Affairs establishments throughout Australia. However, sample testing and disinfection will continue in accordance with the guidelines from the National Health and Medical Research Council. I understand that the South Australian Health Commission is continuing investigations to identify possible sources of the disease.