Leading the nation, SA is on-target to declare SA prisons virtually Hepatitis C free

A state-wide Hepatitis C eradication program for South Australians in custody is delivering life-changing benefits.

The SA Prison Health Service, a specialised clinical health service within the Central Adelaide Local Health Network (CALHN), provides primary health care to all prisoners in SA public facilities.

Leading the way

It has implemented a collaborative program to reduce the burden of Hepatitis C – a bloodborne virus that most often occurs through exposure to blood from unsafe injection practices – on the prison population and wider community.

The reduction of the Hepatitis C has individual patient benefits as well as reducing the risk to others in terms of transmission.

The SAPHS team set out to eliminate Hepatitis C from SA prisons through a multi-faceted model, leveraging the introduction of a new class of medications funded by the Commonwealth government. Partnering with the Communicable Disease Control Branch, South Australia’s Local Health Network Viral Hepatitis teams, Hepatitis SA and MOSAIC Blood Borne Support Services, the team’s approach also included streamlined referral pathways for rapid testing and treatment, upskilling of the nursing and medical workforce, and engagement in national projects with the Kirby and Burnette Institutes.

SAPHS incorporated a model called ‘Hep C: Everyone’s Business’, where testing, identification and treatment was “everyone’s business”.

The program tested and treated on an unprecedented scale, resulting in significantly reduced rates of untreated Hepatitis C in SA prisons of less than 1 per cent. This compares to 5-15 per cent Australia-wide, which sees SA having the nation’s lowest rate of infections among people in custody.

The initiative aimed to overcome the impact of untreated Hepatitis C infections, which can often lead to chronic infection, liver disease, and possibly cancer and liver failure, resulting in significant morbidity and mortality for those who remain untreated over many years.

National recognition

In recognition of this achievement, the SAPHS team received The Australian Council on Healthcare Standards (ACHS) Clinical Excellence and Patient Safety Award for “Hep C is Everyone’s Business – An Approach for Virtual Elimination of Hepatitis C in South Australian Prisons”.

CALHN’s My PreHab program team were also highly commended in same category.