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]