Local parents concerned after needles found at school bus stop
Several Carbonear children underwent blood testing as a precaution last week after used insulin needles were discovered at a school bus stop.
Virginia Earle, whose five-yearold son Cameron catches the school bus with four other children across the street from their home on High Road North, said her son actually saw the needles Tuesday morning and told his grandfather, but the family didn’t think much of it.
“He’s five. I didn’t take him serious,” said Earle. Nevertheless, the next morning, she walked across the street with her son to the bus stop to look for herself, and found three needles.
“I was like, ‘Oh my god, what do I do?’ Then I grabbed my son, I come across the road and got a glove and a Ziploc bag,” she said, adding she put the needles in the bag and started making phone calls.
Earle said she called public health, poison control and the police.
“Poison control told me to call public health care, public health care told me to call the (town) council,” she said, adding that her fatherin-law, who works for town council, suggested she call the police, which he said was what happened after another recent needle discovery in a hardware store parking lot.
Earle said the police asked her if there was blood in the needles. Earle said there wasn’t, and the officer asked her to dispose of the needles carefully herself, in a puncture-proof container.
However, Earle’s sister-in-law Laura Baker — a nurse — looked at the needles herself and found there was blood in them. Earle called the police back to let them know, but got the same response.
“ They just told me just to get rid of them. There was nothing they could do.”
Earle said an older child at the bus stop told her the needles had been there for a couple of days, and that there was a fourth one somewhere. Earle said the police officer she spoke to told her someone would come by to find the fourth needle later that day, but no one came.
“ The older girl told me a couple of the children had them in their hands,” said Earle.
After Cameron returned from school, Earle questioned him further, and said his cousin handled the needle and pulled the stopper out. His cousin said she hadn’t, but another girl had. “We were all getting conflicting stories,” said Earle.
For his part, Cameron said he picked up the needle, and then it was handled by a couple of the other children, and then one stomped on it.
“And then we went on the bus, and I told the bus driver,” he said.
Baker called another parent, and then the hospital, where it was suggested all the children come in to get tested for hepatitis and HIV.
“I’m still worried, but I’m confident that he wasn’t pricked or anything. I don’t think any of the children were,” she said. “ We just done it as a precaution.”
Baker said they were insulin needles that had likely been used to inject drugs. “They had blood in the syringe containers, so therefore we knew that they were contaminated IV drug user needles,” she said, noting that needles used to inject insulin are not inserted into veins.
The next day, Thursday, police still had not been out to the scene, and a call to the town office from Baker had not been returned. Calls to the hospital the previous day turned up phone numbers for poison control and communicable diseases specialists, neither of which were able to help Earle, who felt the only support she received was from the public health nurse, who called a few times to see how things were going. She said the public health nurse told her it’s the town council’s job to make sure the needles were properly disposed of, and a spokeswoman for Eastern Health, Elizabeth Strange, confirmed to The Compass that it’s council’s responsibility.
“To me, it’s the police’s job,” said Earle. “There’s still a needle across the road, in a snowbank.” Earle said she tried to find it, but doesn’t want to dig through a snowbank looking for a used needle.
But when the Compass called Trinity Conception RCMP, they couldn’t find any reports of needles being found.
“I hate to say this, but I can’t find where she called in,” said Sandra Noseworthy, who dispatches calls at the detachment. “That’s not saying she didn’t call in, but I can’t find anything here.”
Baker said the Carbonear town office secretary said she should talk to town administrator Cynthia Davis, so when a message for Davis wasn’t returned, Baker went to the town office in person to talk to her.
“She said really that she didn’t know what can be done about it,” said Baker. “I do think that something needs to be done about it... Some education has to be brought forth to the public somewhere.” Baker said Davis told her she’d speak to council to see what could be done about the problem.
“It just seems like it was unfortunate that those kids were there and that had happened, and that’s the way everyone’s looking at it and that’s it. But it really could have been a bad situation,” she said. “My kid just had to have HIV testing and hepatitis testing at seven years old.”
A message left for Davis by The Compass resulted in a phone call from Carbonear Mayor Sam Slade, who said Friday it wasn’t a municipal responsibility, and blamed people for disposing needles improperly.
“For the town’s part of it, unless certain places are identified where we can keep a good, close watch on it or whatever the case may be, I mean how would we know?” he said, adding it was irresponsible of whomever used the needles to have left them near a school bus stop.
“ The most we can do as a town, we send out newsletters every three months. All we can do is educate and make people aware that this is not proper, and probably have that conversation with the RCMP,” he said. “For our kids to be able to get their hands on any type of needle, it’s just not heard of.”
But Slade later called back to confirm that a notice will be going out in the next newsletter asking anyone who finds needles to call the town, which will ensure they’re disposed of properly.
While Earle’s not overly worried that any of the children may have pricked themselves - it will be at least a few weeks before the test results come in — she’s worried that her concern may have rattled her son somewhat.
“I was talking to (Cameron’s) teachers this morning, and he was saying something he was going to die,” she said. “I think what it is, is that he was probably a little confused because I was telling him the dangers of the needle, and what they could do. They could really hurt you, they could really make you sick. Or they could kill you. I had to be a little bit harsh with it, but I guess he took the harsher part of it.”