Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Australia-Hep C expertise now just a call away

A bold new medical project will help tackle a major hepatitis C problem on the peninsula.

A Frankston GP and The Alfred hospital have joined forces to bring The Alfred’s expertise to hepatitis C carriers in the southeast who might not otherwise get treatment.

A “tele health” system will allow experts from the hospital to talk directly to patients and the doctors at the new clinic, meaning sufferers can receive treatment without having to travel to The Alfred.

The project is thanks to a $334,804 grant, announced by Victorian senator Jacinta Collins for Frankston Healthcare on Young St.

GP Dr Robert Weiss said the money will be used to establish new consulting rooms.

“A major component will be the treatment of hepatitis C, which is now reaching epidemic proportions in Australia,” Dr Weiss said.

“People who miss out on treatment because they can’t travel to The Alfred can now receive a treatment plan here with Alfred expertise at the other end of a computer link-up.”

Professor Stuart Roberts, director of gastroenterology at The Alfred said he is “extremely excited” by the new project.

“Experts at the hospital can interact with patients on the coalface,” Prof Roberts said.

Between January and the beginning of December this year, 57 people were diagnosed with hepatits C in Frankston, but that is believed to be just a fraction of the total who have the infectious disease.

It is believed there are about 50,000 people in Australia who have yet to be diagnosed.

Helen McNeill, chief executive of Hepatitis Victoria, said the new Frankston clinic was good news.

“Treatment is quite arduous and has been described as like having chemo, so not having to travel up to a major hospital is good news for people.”

About 90 per cent of new hepatitis C infections are among users of injected illicit drugs.

“If you have ever, even just once, injected illicit drugs, go and have a blood test,” Ms McNeill said.

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