- OTTAWA (CP) -- Liver specialists are calling for help as they struggle
to cope with the burgeoning number of <http://www.canoe.ca/HealthNews/HealthNews/home.html#hepc
hepatitis C cases.
- There are about 25 Canadian hepatologists
or liver specialists to handle an estimated 250,000 to 300,000 hepatitis
C patients, Samuel Lee, president of the Canadian Association for the Study
of Liver, said in an interview Thursday.
- "In the past two years the waiting
list for new patients to see me has gone from about eight or nine weeks
to seven months and it's all due to hep C patients," said Lee, a hepatologist
at the University of Calgary.
- The situation is similar across the country,
said Gerald Minuk, a Winnipeg hepatologist.
- "There are just not enough of us
to cope with the number of patients," said Minuk.
- General practitioners are not able even
to provide counselling for people who have tested positive for the virus
let alone to keep up with the latest thinking on treatment, which is evolving
rapidly, he said.
- The hepatitis C virus was isolated less
than 10 years ago but it has spread rapidly, mainly through tainted blood
and the use of injection street drugs.
- Lee has called upon the federal government
to develop a national hepatitis C strategy, along the lines of the AIDS
strategy Ottawa has funded for years. A major focus would be training.
- "There is an immediate and urgent
need for greatly increased numbers of hepatologists to treat patients with
this hepatitis C problem," he wrote in a recent letter to Health Minister
- In the letter he urged Rock to consider
funding at least 10 positions per year in hepatology across the country
for at least the next 10 years.
- In a reply to Lee, Rock said physician
training is a provincial-territorial responsibility.
- "As federal minister of health it
would be inappropriate for me to provide funding to the provinces and territories
earmarked for the training of particular specialists," says Rock in
the letter obtained by The Canadian Press.
- Rock notes that at a health ministers
meeting in September he proposed a package of measures to build knowledge
about hepatitis C, and to ensure patients don't have to spend their own
money to get drug treatment.
- Minuk said Manitoba has taken a lead
in treatment of hepatitis C by establishing a special training program
for liver specialists and by establishing a formal hepatitis C clinic.
- Minuk and his colleagues have produced
two CD-ROMs on hepatitis C, one for general practitioners and one for patients.