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Taking Hepatitis C testing to the people

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25th July, 2023

NSW Health Pathology’s Westmead Collector Maria (seated in the grey beanie) recently joined colleagues from Western Sydney Local Health District’s liver outreach screening team and Hepatitis NSW at the Kimberwali NAIDOC Week celebrations.

The team took the liv­er well­ness out­reach van to spread the clear mes­sage that hepati­tis C can be cured.

“The mobile van makes hepati­tis C test­ing much eas­i­er, faster and more acces­si­ble,” Maria said. “And we can give peo­ple gen­er­al liv­er health edu­ca­tion as well.”

As part of the NAIDOC Week activ­i­ties, atten­dees were offered free blood col­lec­tion or point of care test­ing for hepati­tis C by the Hepa­tol­ogy Inte­grat­ed Out­reach Care Team from West­ern Syd­ney LHD.

The van pro­vides care to vul­ner­a­ble mem­bers of the com­mu­ni­ty who would oth­er­wise not access healthcare.

“It was real­ly reward­ing being out in the com­mu­ni­ty, talk­ing to peo­ple, hear­ing their sto­ries and reach­ing peo­ple who might not like going to hos­pi­tal,” Maria said.

Accord­ing to Rajesh­wari Dote, Nurs­ing Man­ag­er, NSW Health Pathol­o­gy Col­lec­tions West, most of the patients seen at the van often have dif­fi­cult venous access and hav­ing a trained and expe­ri­enced col­lec­tor con­tributes to the suc­cess of the program.

“There are cur­rent­ly oth­er meth­ods of diag­nos­ing blood borne virus­es, such as point of care test­ing and dried blood spot test­ing, how­ev­er, venepunc­ture for the col­lec­tion of whole blood remains a crit­i­cal and impor­tant part of reach­ing elim­i­na­tion tar­gets. It would not be pos­si­ble with­out the col­lab­o­ra­tion of the van out­reach team and NSW Health Pathol­o­gy col­lec­tions team.”

Maria said it has been a real­ly reward­ing experience.

“Par­tic­i­pat­ing in the liv­er well­ness out­reach ser­vice is a real eye open­er for me. It took me out of my com­fort zone, but it’s a real priv­i­lege to be invit­ed to be part of such a won­der­ful project like the mobile van clin­ic team. The inter­ac­tions I had with the patients made me realise how impor­tant edu­ca­tion and good health­care is,” she said.

“Pro­vid­ing assur­ance, empa­thy and com­pas­sion are cru­cial when I car­ry out the pro­ce­dure. Blood col­lec­tions from anx­ious and vul­ner­a­ble patients have made me a bet­ter phle­botomist and it’s real­ly sat­is­fy­ing to know you can sup­port patients when they need it most.”

Hepati­tis C is a virus that caus­es inflam­ma­tion of the liv­er and is spread through blood-to-blood con­tact. It is a major pub­lic health con­cern and Aus­tralia aims to elim­i­nate Hepati­tis C by 2028.

Peo­ple at risk of viral hepati­tis infec­tion across the state are being encour­aged on World Hepati­tis Day 2023 (28 July 2023), to take the steps to seek test­ing, treat­ment and care as soon as possible.

Test­ing for hepati­tis C is now eas­i­er with the intro­duc­tion of dried blood spot test­ing, which can be done in the com­fort of a person’s home with results deliv­ered by phone.
Dried blood spot tests are free to eli­gi­ble peo­ple over the age of 16 and can be ordered online at dbstest.health.nsw.gov.au.

More infor­ma­tion about viral hepati­tis can be found at https://www.hep.org.au/ or via a local GP.

Read NSW Health’s Hep C Strat­e­gy here: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/hepatitis/Pages/hepatitiscstrategy.aspx

You can also con­tact the mobile van out­reach team via email: [email protected]




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