May 2015: The free Rotorua clinics were implemented by The Hepatitis Foundation of New Zealand in partnership with the Lakes District Health Board, Rotorua Area Primary Health Services (RAPHS) and local General Practices.
The portable community-based FibroScan machine has been a main draw card of the clinics. A FibroScan assessment can determine if liver damage is present and is one of the most important things a person with viral hepatitis can do to assess the health of their liver. The clinics were set up within a General Practice, where patients could attend to see a community hepatitis nurse.
It’s great to see there is education and assistance out there for hepatitis patients,” said Hariata Vercoe, CEO of Korowai Aroha Health Centre. “It gives our patients a bit more of an understanding about viral hepatitis and what it can do to them and how they can be in control of their health and well-being.”
“This has been a great opportunity to work alongside General Practices to identify their patients who have been diagnosed with viral hepatitis. Some were diagnosed many years ago. We can see these patients in their own General Practice, free of charge, and offer enrolment to our National Follow-up Programme,” said Ann Hornell, the Foundation’s Community Hepatitis Nurse.
A patient with chronic hepatitis C who attended a clinic at Korowai Aroha Health Centre has previously had to travel to Waikato Hospital to get a FibroScan. “I found it a lot easier being local. The clinic was really good and very efficient,” said the patient.
“We worked in partnership with General Practices to offer specialised community health care to patients with chronic viral hepatitis. Chronic hepatitis is the leading cause of liver cancer and liver transplants in New Zealand. A key message delivered to patients was the importance of getting regular blood tests and follow-up to effectively manage their hepatitis and prevent liver disease.
Nine community clinics have been organised so far, with 56 FibroScan assessments completed,” said Susan Hay, Operations Manager at The Hepatitis Foundation of New Zealand.
“I know from some of the feedback from patients that they appreciate the contact they have with the Hepatitis Foundation. I guess they feel safe knowing the foundation is there to help them,” said Tim Ryan, Long Term Conditions Nurse from Korowai Aroha Health Centre.
To date, clinics in Rotorua have been held at Korowai Aroha Health Centre, Fairy Springs Medical Centre, Kuirau Medical Centre, Ngongotaha Medical Centre and Owhata Surgery. A total of 122 people from Rotorua who have hepatitis B or C have been referred to The Hepatitis Foundation since work began in the area.
- Viral Hepatitis causes inflammation, cirrhosis and cancer of the liver.
- Approximately 150,000 New Zealanders live with chronic hepatitis. Over two thirds remain undiagnosed or in proper assessment.
- People at risk of hepatitis B are those who are over 25 and of Māori, Pacific Island, or Asian ethnicity. Also at risk are people whose mother or close family has hepatitis B, or if they live with someone who has hepatitis B.
- For hepatitis C, those at risk are people who have ever injected drugs, ever received a tattoo or body piercing using unsterile equipment, had medical attention overseas, had a blood transfusion prior to 1992, have ever been in prison, or were born to a mother with hepatitis C.
- If you think you may have hepatitis or have any questions, please free phone The Hepatitis Foundation on 0800 33 20 10 or speak to your doctor.
The Hepatitis Foundation of New Zealand is a not-for-profit organisation who aims to improve health outcomes for people living with chronic hepatitis B or C in New Zealand.
They encourage anyone living with chronic hepatitis B or C to enrol with the Foundation for education, support and routine testing.