HEALTH

Hep C Contact Update - July 2010

Wednesday 14 July 2010, 5:26PM
By Ministry of Health
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More than half of the 56 New Zealand women at risk of hepatitis C following treatment at a private Australian medical clinic have been contacted and tested.

Ministry of Health Deputy Director of Public Health Dr Fran McGrath says unfortunately contacting is a slow process as because of the confidentiality requirements callers can’t leave messages and have to repeatedly ring back.

“Even contacting one individual can take several calls followed by a registered letter, all of which can take a considerable period of time.

“The Australian Victorian health authorities have contacted 33 New Zealanders and the bulk of those have been tested. Summary results from the New Zealand testing will be released as part of the Australian resport once the contacting and testing process has been completed, though the privacy and confidentiality of the individual women will be protected.

“We know the Victorian health authorities are in the process of contacting another 14 people and they have details of another eight New Zealanders still to be contacted as they work through the 3500 people treated at the clinic.

The publicity in New Zealand has resulted in 71 calls to date to Healthline and 53 transferred to the Hepatitis C helpline Victoria. Some of the calls to Healthline were repeat calls and 40 individual women were referred to Victorian health authorities.

The Ministry expects to have a further update in September. By that stage the Ministry expects the look-back process to be completed or close to completion and we will know by then when the Victorian authorities will be able to give a final summary of the outcome for the 3500 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."

ENDS

Background
In June, the Australian Authorities have confirmed that 55 New Zealand women were 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. That number has now been revised to 56.

The Department of Health in Victoria, has taken responsibility for tracing, directly contacting and confidentially informing all 3,500 women concerned, including the 56 affected women giving a New Zealand address.

The Victorian Department of Health is continuing to 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 had been contacted and 746 tested. A further update by the Australian authorities is expected in the near future.

Of those 746 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 keep in close contact 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.

Updated information about the numbers referred for testing will be provided at the next update in September.

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.