Council resists campaign for soap in public toilets

Professor Stephanie Short

Despite advocating hand-washing to help minimise the spread of coronavirus, Central Coast Council has decided not to provide soap in many of its public toilets, according to community group Operation Soap in Public Toilets.
The group, which has itself placed soap in toilets around the Peninsula, claims the Council “removes the signs we leave to say where the soap has come from”.
The group is backed by Professor Stephanie Short, who specialises in public health at the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Medicine and Health, and who is a Woy Woy resident.
“Our mayor tells us to continue to practise good hygiene, including washing your hands before and after using any equipment, yet there is no soap supplied in the majority of Council-owned public facilities,” she said.
“Council has advised we are ready to welcome visitors … but we have been advised to continue to act responsibly and follow the Australian Government directions to help minimise the spread of Covid-19.
“We were told there were three instructions (at the beginning of coronavirus restrictions): stay at home, socially distance and use hand hygiene.
“But when I went to use a public toilet I realised we couldn’t follow these basic rules unless there was soap in every facility.”
Professor Short said: “I am very disappointed that Council isn’t looking at doing this.
“Despite receiving promising responses from six councillors to emails I have sent, Council has decided to ‘maintain the status quo’, which means no soap going into these facilities.
“There is soap in the major venues, such as the Peninsula Leisure Centre at Woy Woy and Kiddies Corner at Umina Beach.
“The Peninsula Community Centre and Umina Library have soap, but what about all the smaller facilities including at our beaches?”
Professor Short said members of the group had placed soap in a number of Peninsula facilities, including at Umina and Ocean Beach surf clubs, and at Ettalong and Pearl Beach, and the campaign was ongoing.
“Sometimes the soap we leave is stolen, but more often it stays put,” she said.
“It is disappointing to know Council removes the signs we leave to say where the soap has come from.
“The pandemic has brought the issue to a head, but we need to have basic public health measures at our facilities all the time.
“Other councils have soap in all their facilities – so why can’t we?”
Professor Short said the group would continue its campaign into the future.
“This is an urgent basic public health matter,” she said.
“It’s also an OH and S matter for Council employees who use these facilities, along with tradesmen and members of the general public.
“Now we are going to see more holidaymakers in the area. We want them to feel welcome and safe on the Peninsula.”
Professor Short said she was hopeful a formal motion would soon be brought to Council on the matter.
Despite a recent review, the decision was made to remain with status quo to minimise the risk of vandalism and slipping accidents, resulting from soap spilt on floors.
A staff response to a Question with Notice from Cr Kyle Mac Gregor at Council’s May 25 meeting said Council staff would be developing a Public Toilet Strategy which would allow Council to look at ways to include soap in a safe manner in any of the new builds or renovations that occur.

Email, 1 Jun 2020
Interview (Terry Collins), 1 Jun 2020
Stephanie Short, Operation Soap in Public Toilets

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