Pricked by syringe

By Zoe McMaugh

Grace, Ali and Ben Mcdonald are now extra cautious when they go to a park to play.

An innocent play in the park has turned into a nightmare for the Macdonald family, after six year-old Ben pricked his hand with a syringe on Monday.

The youngster, who was playing with his siblings and other children at the newly refurbished ‘Rocket Park’, found a small black box in the sand surrounding some of the play equipment.

Ever curious, Ben opened the box — later discovered to be a Fitpack syringe container — and a number of syringes fell out.

Mum Ali Macdonald, who has a background in the health industry, immediately took her son to Deniliquin Hospital where he had blood taken for the first in a series of tests that will be undertaken over at least a year.

While Mrs Macdonald and her husband Jim are confident their son will be fine, they say there is a lot of anxiety in the unknown.

And Mrs Macdonald said the realisation is worrying that safe family spaces may not be as safe as we all think and hope.

‘‘We are confident in saying he will be fine, but you never know,’’ Mrs Macdonald said.

‘‘But now I feel like I can’t take my children to the park anymore.

‘‘Our daughter Grace has swimming lessons and we normally go to the park to fill in time while she is there.

‘‘But this makes me question how safe parks really are.

‘‘And to think I had let my other son Jack play with his shoes off that afternoon.’’

The Macdonalds won’t have the results of Ben’s first blood test back until at least next week, and Mrs Macdonald said repeat tests would be conducted in one month, six months and 12 months.

Mrs Macdonald said the onus of this incident is on syringe users, and those who are not responsible with safe disposal.

But she said improved safety measures could also be an effective deterrent, to ensure this does not happen again.

‘‘Health providers are good at handing these Fitpacks out, but it is up to the users to make sure they are using and disposing of them properly.

‘‘There is an area in the box where you can safely store used needles, so they cannot come out again, but we believe the ones that fell out may have been opened and used and not placed in there. 
‘‘What more do we need to do to make things safe?  I think we really need surveillance at the Rocket Park.’’

Shirlee Burge, who lives near the park and was there with her grandchild at the same time as the Macdonalds, said there are often people in the park late at night.

She agreed further security measures are needed at the park, saying the box was even initially undetected by the Edward River Council outdoor staff who were there earlier that day.

‘‘It seems to be a regular hazard, so parents and carers need to be aware,’’ Mrs Burge said,

‘‘Council seems to be there each morning doing a clean up so I’m sure they are doing what they can, but there seems to be people there each evening and clearly some of them are very careless with what they throw away.

‘‘It should be a safe place to play, not a health hazard.’’

Council general manager Adam McSwain said the council is already in the process of improving security at the park.

‘‘Council will be installing CCTV at Scott’s Park in the next month or two, which has always been a part of the revitalisation project,’’ he said.

‘‘The safety for everyone using these facilities is paramount.

‘‘We inspect and clean our parks regularly, with council staff attending Scott’s Park to carry out these duties seven days a week.

‘‘Council reminds all residents to be mindful what they take and use and what activities they undertake at local parks and gardens, and be mindful that they are well loved and utilised particularly by children and families.

‘‘If syringes are found in any of the local parks, call council on 5898 3000 and staff equipped with the appropriate protective equipment will collect, store and dispose of any needles.”

Mrs Macdonald said Monday’s incident has also been reported to Deniliquin Police.