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Patients evacuated following chemical leak at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre

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20 Feb 2013
Fire crews worked closely with hospital staff after a chemical spill closed the sterilising unit and theatre suite at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre this morning.

Crews were called to the scene at 8.15am, after a hospital staff member noticed an odour coming from an equipment sterilisation cabinet.

The staff member was assessed by hospital staff and Ambulance Victoria paramedics and was discharged. Staff exposed to the chemical, including security staff, were assessed by paramedics and all deemed to be unaffected by the incident.

Hospital staff quickly cleared the affected area, and the building was closed for three hours to arriving staff and patients.

Victoria Police attended the scene, blocking traffic and managing pedestrian access.

Firefighters in fully encapsulated HAMZAT suits entered the hospital, and located a leaking canister of ethylene oxide, used to sterilise brachytherapy (internal radiotherapy) equipment.  They conducted air readings of the area, which were determined to be very low by MFB Scientific Officers.

Pic: MFB Media

Meanwhile, Peter Mac staff and MFB Incident Controllers continued to update displaced staff and patients.  Morning outpatient appointments and operating theatre sessions were cancelled.

The cabinet containing the gas canister was sealed by firefighters and, as a precaution, the room in which the incident took place will remain sealed while it is cleaned today.

Incident Controller Assistant Chief Fire Officer Andrew Zammit said he was pleased with the way the emergency services and hospital staff were able to manage the incident together.

“The incident did have an impact on people in the area, but it was well managed and patients were able to enter the hospital to receive treatment in a timely manner,” he said.

Patients and staff were allowed to enter the building from about 11.20am.  Ten appliances and approximately 28 firefighters attended the scene.

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