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call for health minister to act on hepatitis c

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    Call for Health Minister to act on hepatitis C report PRINT FRIENDLY EMAIL STORY
    AM - Friday, 22 August , 2003 08:22:47
    Reporter: Louise Yaxley
    LINDA MOTTRAM: The Federal Health Minister is facing criticism for failing to immediately release a review of the hepatitis-C strategy.

    A copy of the review has now been obtained by AM and it shows that the strategy has not succeeded in controlling the hepatitis C epidemic, with a warning that the urgency of the situation cannot be overstated.

    It says there have been too few resources to implement the strategy and it says there has been no detailed implementation plan.

    It comes as the Hepatitis Council says the number of new hep-C infections rose by 45 per cent between 1997 to 2001.

    Louise Yaxley reports.

    LOUISE YAXLEY: Hepatitis C is a blood-borne disease which can cause liver cancer. About 210,000 people are estimated to be living with the disease in Australia.

    The review of the hepatitis C strategy, which has been in place since 1999, says there's been inadequate research and surveillance and a lack of resources to fight the disease.

    The President of the Australian Hepatitis Council, Stuart Loveday, says the Health Minister, Kay Patterson, should not keep sitting on the report because the epidemic is growing so rapidly.

    STUART LOVEDAY: Now we recently received information that the estimated new infections has gone up by 45 per cent, from an estimated 11,000 new infections in 1997, to an estimated 16,000 new infections in 2001. Now that represents an increase to a level of one new hepatitis C infection every 30 minutes.

    LOUISE YAXLEY: Stuart Loveday backs the review's findings that not enough is being done.

    STUART LOVEDAY: It's as if the Federal Government has hit the pause button. Nothing is happening. Nothing seems to be happening at a national level and there are services on the ground which are being threatened.

    In one case in New South Wales, we understand that social workers and hepatitis C clinical nurse consultants have had to be let go.

    LOUISE YAXLEY: The Minister, Kay Patterson, says the review will be released soon. She points out she asked for it to be done to ensure she was fully informed.

    KAY PATTERSON: And that report has been with me for some time but it's a report to inform the next five-year strategy. I have asked for a co-ordinated response to that report. Of course we won't agree with everything in the report, and the States won't always agree with everything that's in the report either.

    LOUISE YAXLEY: Labor's Health Spokeswoman, Julia Gillard, says the information in the review shouldn't be covered up.

    JULIA GILLARD: Well we were appalled that the Minister sat on this report for as long as she has. We made it public yesterday. We now believe that the Minister has to get on with the job of implementing what the report suggests.

    What needs to be done here is she needs to work quickly and in partnership with all of the stakeholder groups, rather than just having the report gather mould as it sits on the edge of her desk.

    LOUISE YAXLEY: Well the Minister says that she is using it to inform the next strategy which starts in 2004/05, and that she ordered this review early so she could start to prepare all the information required.

    JULIA GILLARD: Well it seems to me that if she's got information early then it pays to act on it early.

    LINDA MOTTRAM: Labor's Health Spokeswoman, Julia Gillard, speaking to our reporter in Canberra, Louise Yaxley.
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