I head to the gym before work three mornings a week. After a quick shower, I drive to HSE HQ at Dr Steevens’ Hospital , near Heuston Station.
It’s reasonably close to home.
My key role is to drive the implementation of the HSE’s multi annual public health treatment plan for hepatitis C. The ultimate aim is that hepatitis C will be a rare disease in Ireland by 2026.
In recent times, a new generation of direct-acting anti-viral drugs has led to the effective elimination of hepatitis C in people with haemophilia, a condition that affects the blood’s ability to clot.
It’s an astonishing breakthrough. The cure rate among haemophiliacs to date is more than 90%, with little or no side effects from treatment compared to older regimens.
I link in with the programme’s clinical lead, Professor Suzanne Norris, a consultant hepatologist on secondment from St James’s Hospital.
We are examining ways of getting more patients into treatment, of moving beyond the current care model of the acute hospital by integrating treatment into community settings.
Between 70%-80% of hepatitis C patients acquired it through injecting drugs and often don’t engage with hospitals.
We are looking at the possibility of linking in with addiction treatment centres in an effort to get more people into treatment.
I have work to do around chairing an upcoming meeting with the programme advisory group which has responsibility for the strategic direction of the programme.
We are only on our feet about a year. Prior to the establishment of the programme, I co-ordinated the healthcare scheme for State-infected hepatitis C patients.
We also have a clinical advisory group comprised of doctors, nurses, academics, researchers and pharmacists. We meet once a month to discuss clinical developments in the treatment of hepatitis C and how patients might benefit.
We have €30m funding this year but treatment is expensive — €25k-€70k per patient — and there are up to 30,000 people living with hepatitis C in Ireland, of whom approximately 1,300 are state-infected. The latter are prioritised and the aim is to make sure they are all treated by the end of 2017. We’re ahead of target.
I head home. I am always at the other end of the phone or responding to emails about successful treatment programmes in other countries.
Yoga is a welcome distraction.
* Michele Tait, National Hepatitis C treatment programme manager
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