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Some immune-compromised patients undergoing cancer treatment at Auckland City Hospital are being moved due to the risk of exposure to potentially toxic fungal spores.
As part of planned work, Auckland District Health Board is demolishing three buildings which surround the Regional Cancer and Blood Service.
In order to mitigate any potential risk of vulnerable or immune-compromised patients being exposed to aspergillus (fungal spores), the haemotology service – which provides blood services and oncology – is being moved from November 23.
Aspergillus is a common mould (fungus) with spores that can be inhaled and deposited into airways, which can produce toxic and allergenic reactions.
The issue was outlined in the DHB’s Hospital Advisory Committee meeting agenda for Wednesday.
Most people breathe in aspergillus spores every day without getting sick, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states.
However, it can be “extremely dangerous” for people with weakened immune systems – such as those with cancer – who are at a higher risk of developing health problems, such as infection, from the spores.
Aspergillus fungus spores are largely innocuous for healthy people, but can be an issue for those with weakened immune systems.
Aspergillus fungus spores are largely innocuous for healthy people, but can be an issue for those with weakened immune systems. During construction work, aspergillus can be found in dust resulting from work in and around soil.
The haemotology service will be relocated to the Rangitoto Ward, in the hospital's main building, while buildings 13, 7 and 9 are pulled down.
Auckland DHB cancer and blood service director and acting chief medical officer Dr Richard Sullivan said tests carried out several months ago identified potential aspergillus in the soil at the first building being deconstructed.
Aspergillus was a well-recognised and managed risk of any construction project, he said.
The first building being deconstructed was unused and no longer fit-for-purpose. It would be wrapped and taken apart from the inside, Sullivan said.
The service was taking a “precautionary approach”, setting up a team of clinical microbiologists and infection specialists to guide the process, he said.
They assessed there was no additional risk to staff, visitors and the majority of patients, he said.
Sullivan said steps were being put in place to mitigate the “very low risk” to a “small number” of immune-compromised patients receiving particular treatments for cancer or blood disorders.