Epidemic Hazard – Australia – Australia

EDIS Number: EH-20100727-27163-AUS
Date / time: 27/07/2010 16:40:45 [UTC]
Event: Epidemic Hazard
Area: Australia
Country: Australia
State/County: State of Victoria
City: Melbourne
Number of Deads: None or unknow
Number of Injured: None or unknow
Damage level: Minor


Health officials say there is strong evidence to suggest the number of women who have contracted hepatitis C from a doctor in a day surgery in Melbourne's north-east has risen to 35. And a lawyer bringing a class action over the outbreak says she is puzzled authorities are not more worried about other clinics where Dr James Peters worked. Victoria's chief health officer, Dr John Carnie, says it is highly likely the women who tested positive for hepatitis C contracted it from Dr Peters. "In total, we have now had 58 women who have been found to be positive for hepatitis C, and of these, 35 have hepatitis C virus that appears to be genetically linked to the cluster," he said. "That is, they appear to be very closely linked to the virus of the doctor who has been implicated as part of this outbreak." The link between the Croydon Day Surgery and the cluster was first revealed in April, when there were only 12 cases. Dr Peters was suspended from practising in February and Victoria Police and the Medical Practitioners Board are investigating whether or not the infections were intentional. The outbreak is also the subject of a class action suit. Slater and Gordon medical law expert Paula Shelton is representing those involved and says a lot more people may be affected. "From the numbers we initially had, the numbers of people who've been tested and the number of people who were affected, certainly suggested that we would have a lot more," she said. "I guess from the point of view of the legal action, it just becomes more and more improbable that there's an innocent explanation for these infections." She says the health department needs to explain why it has concerns about the Croydon Day Clinic but apparently has no concerns about the other clinics where Dr Peters worked. "This was a doctor who worked at a number of clinics as indeed many anaesthetists do, and yet only the patients of this clinic have been identified as being at risk," she said. "Now there has to be a reason for that, and my clients ask me every day what that is and I don't have anything to tell them." Helen McNeil, the head of Hepatitis C Victoria, says she has no concerns about infection control procedures in Victoria more broadly. "That's incredibly awful for these women who have been infected, but there's certainly no indication that there's more widespread problems," she said. "This is an extremely isolated event with one particular health practitioner." Others say the case shows there are problems and that the Government needs to rethink the way it regulates the medical system. "It never ceases to amaze me, the mistakes and things that go on, like this, but nothing happens," said Lorraine Long from the Medical Error Action Group. "The malpractitioners are allowed to continue practising and if they don't they'll just move interstate and get registration through that medical board and continue on. "They don't learn from their mistakes and there's no severe government control that will rein them in. And that's the failure."

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