the Hepatitis FoundationWednesday 10 October 2012, 11:43AM
Media release from the Hepatitis Foundation
People in the Wairarapa and greater Wellington regions will have
better access to testing, assessment and treatment for hepatitis C
thanks to a two‐year pilot programme being rolled out in the
Capital and Coast, Hutt Valley and Wairarapa DHBs are working with
The Hepatitis Foundation (NZ) and community‐based health providers
to improve access to support services for patients living with
chronic hepatitis C and encourage people that may be at risk to get
tested. Preparations are underway to launch the pilot at Capital
and Coast, Hutt Valley and Wairarapa DHBs in early 2013.
According to the Foundation there are an estimated 5,800 people
living with hepatitis C across the sub‐region. Chronic hepatitis C
is the main cause of liver transplants in New Zealand and if left
untreated can have serious health effects.
"This programme will be a terrific help to identify people that
need treatment and offer them ongoing support," said Dr Richard
Stein, supervising clinician for the Wairarapa pilot. "We have
around 50 patients we hope to enrol in the Wairarapa and combined
with the Hutt Valley and Wellington pilots will mean better service
coverage and better outcomes for our populations," he said.
During the first stage of the pilot, people already diagnosed with
hepatitis C will be enrolled into a Community Assessment and
Support Programme. Patients' care is centrally managed by a
community hepatitis nurse who is supported by a range of
specialists including hospital staff, GPs and other community‐based
Patients will have improved access to services, including
FibroScan. This ultrasound technique measures the amount of scar
tissue (fibrosis) in the liver, which helps measure the progression
of the disease. Patients will also receive ongoing follow‐up care
which is important for managing their condition. During the second
stage of the pilot, people will be encouraged to get tested if they
are, or have been at risk of hepatitis C.
Those at risk of hepatitis C are people who have ever: injected
drugs; received a blood transfusion before 1992; lived or received
medical attention in high‐risk countries; been in prison; or used
unsterile equipment for tattooing or body piercing. Children born
to mothers with hepatitis C are also at risk.
Dr Nigel Stace, Wellington Hospital Gastroenterologist says, "the
key to this pilot is to encourage and support people to come
forward early to be tested and treated. It's easier to treat the
disease in its early stages and there is a much better chance of a
cure when patients complete their treatment."
"Before Fibroscan was available, patients had a biopsy and spent up
to a day in hospital after the procedure to make sure they were fit
to go home," says Dr Stace. "Results also took several days to come
back from the lab. Now testing takes around 20 minutes and doesn't
involve needles which can discourage people from being
"The gastroenterology services at the three DHBs are looking for
opportunities to work more closely together. We see the pilot as a
great opportunity to get this started," says Dr Stace.
Gastroenterology involves providing care for people with diseases
of the 'gut', liver and pancreas.
Dr Jeff Wong, Hutt Hospital gastroenterology specialist says, "we
are delighted to participate in the Foundation's Hepatitis C Pilot
Programme. We hope it will increase the number of people completing
treatment and with the treatment currently available, two thirds of
patients can be cured," he said.