Members of the public are being urged not to attempt to pick up or remove any drug-related waste, following an incident in which a seven-year-old boy was jabbed by a needle in an Athlone playground on Saturday (July 2 ).
The child was brought to Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe on Saturday afternoon after being jabbed by a needle he found while playing in Sarsfield Square playground. Gardaí and council staff attended the scene, and the boy’s parents now face an anxious wait for the results of medical tests.
Speaking about the incident, treasurer and co-founder of Athlone Drug Awareness Group, Jim Henson, said it was a “nightmare” scenario for any parent.
“I have great sympathy for the family. It’s a very long wait to find out anything, and for any family to have to go through this is an absolute nightmare.
“We can’t do anything about what’s happened, but there is terrible anger that needles could be just left around the place.”
He added that procedures surrounding local needle exchange programmes may need to be looked at in order to try and prevent the disposal of needles in public places, following reports that bundles of 10 or 15 needles have been found discarded together.
“There are needle exchange programmes in operation in Westmeath, and needles can be traced back to the source to find out where they are coming from - not to prevent people getting the needles, but to tighten up procedures.”
Mr Henson also strongly urged members of the public not to attempt to pick up or remove any drug-related waste they come across.
Westmeath County Council has an official guide for members of the public outlining what to do in the event of coming across drug-related waste and litter, including injecting equipment.
An information leaflet launched by the council, in conjunction with the Gardaí, Midland Regional Drug and Alcohol Taskforce, and the HSE, in July 2015, informs members of the public they should never attempt to remove any such waste themselves.
To report incidents of drug-related waste, people can call the council on LoCall 1890 320 005. For advice on needle disposal or services and supports available, contact the Midland Regional Drug and Alcohol Task Force on (090 ) 6483108.
Anyone who gets a needlestick injury is advised to contact their local accident and emergency department.
Traning is available to members of the public in relation to the safe disposal of drug-related waste and litter. Further information can be found on www.drugs.ie/saferdisposal