Calls to Healthline are tailing off for women at risk of hepatitis C following treatment at a private medical clinic in Australia.
Ministry of Health Deputy Director of Public Health Dr Fran McGrath says there has been a positive response after the Ministry stepped in a fortnight ago to help its Australian counterparts contact New Zealand women treated at Melbourne's Croydon day surgery centre.
There have now been 66 calls to Healthline and 54 calls transferred to the Australian hepatitis C helpline, up slightly from 59 calls and 49 transferrals a week ago (9 June).
Dr McGrath says the Ministry has been notified by the Victorian Department of Health that 26 of the 55 New Zealand women have been contacted and referred for testing in New Zealand.
The Ministry expects to have a further update in mid-July. By that stage the Ministry expects to know when the Australian authorities will have completed the look-back and referral to testing process and they should be able to give a final summary of the outcome for the 55 New Zealand women involved.
"Our priority is still to encourage women to come forward so they can be tested and treated if needed. Anyone treated at the Croydon Day Surgery clinic between January 2006 and December 2009 should ring Healthline on 0800 611 116."
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Australian Authorities have confirmed that 55 New Zealand women are confirmed as being at risk of hepatitis C as a result of treatment at Croydon Day Surgery clinic in Melbourne between January 2006 and December 2009.
The Department of Health in Victoria, has taken responsibility for tracing, directly contacting and confidentially informing all 3,500 women concerned, including the 55 affected women giving a New Zealand address.
The Victorian Department of Health will contact the women and then refer them to a New Zealand specialist for testing, counselling and treatment if required.
The Department began contacting the New Zealanders on 1 June 2010 as they worked through the 3500 women being traced. At that time around 1000 Australian women have been contacted and 746 tested. No further updates have been released by the Australian authorities.
Of those women tested in Australia, 44 have been found to have hepatitis C, half of whom have had their infection linked to the private Croydon medical centre.
The Ministry of Health continues to work closely with its Victorian counterpart in helping contact the New Zealand women concerned.
New Zealand women who had procedures at the Croydon Day Surgery in Croydon, Victoria from 1 January 2006 to 7 December 2009 can call Healthline in New Zealand and be transferred free of charge to a confidential Australian hepatitis line for further information.
There is a police investigation in Victoria and media reports of legal action in Australia being pursued.
Specialist staff in District Health Boards in New Zealand are providing blood testing, follow-up, support and treatment if necessary to women referred to them by the Australian authorities.
The Ministry estimates, based on the results of women tested to date, that approximately 5% of women treated at the clinic may have contracted Hepatitis C. Based on this information we estimate that up to 3 New Zealand women may test positive.
Both the Ministry of Health here and health authorities in Australia are being careful to protect the privacy and confidentiality of the women involved.
The Ministry is aware that testing has now begun of New Zealand women treated at the Melbourne clinic. Information about the numbers referred for testing will be provided at the next update in July.
Any woman who has received treatment in a Melbourne private clinic in the four years from 2006 to 2009 should contact Healthline 0800 611 116 for advice.
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus that causes inflammation of the liver and which can have serious complications.