On 17 May, the 2022 Queensland Prisons Forum 2022 was held in Brisbane. The forum brings together health professionals working in Queensland prisons and services providing in-reach, to discuss progress in hepatitis C treatment programs and opportunities to strengthen care during transition to the community.
‘’I discovered a contact within my own Health Service of which I was unaware. We have touched base since the meeting regarding a mutual patient who was discharged and needed a significant shared approach to facilitate his Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C management”. Leanne Stone, Clinical Nurse Consultant – Liver Clinic Gastroenterology Department, Townsville Hospital and Health Service.
The forum, funded by Queensland Health, is held in recognition of the high prevalence of hepatitis C among people in custodial settings, and the challenges of providing care in this unique environment.
Co-chaired by Dr. Enoka Gonsalkorala Deputy Director Gastroenterology, Surgical Treatment and Rehabilitation Services and Geoff Davey Chief Executive Officer, Queensland Injectors Health Network, the Forum brought together 46 healthcare workers from Correctional Centres across QLD. The program included 22 presenters, incl. Centre Updates from each site, updates from Roslyn Williams, Manager, Office for Prisoner Health & Wellbeing, as well as Yumi Sheehan, National Prisons Hepatitis Network (NPHN) / The Kirby Institute UNSW, among other valued contributions on the day. The forum concluded with a panel chaired by Dr Katelin Haynes, Chief Executive Officer Hepatitis Queensland, with a focus on harm reduction in QLD Prisons.
“This meeting is incredibly valuable to those who provide viral hepatitis management for individuals in custodial settings. The establishment of new contacts/connections and the building of professional relationships help us all with strong partnerships’’. Forum attendee.
Key themes of discussion on the day included:
- “Prison health is community health” a significant proportion of new hepatitis C infections occur in QLD Prisons. This requires a call to action on continuing to improve harm reduction strategies in these settings
- Access to essential tools for harm reduction in QLD prisons including condoms and NSPs
- POCT testing and initiatives such as the Kombi Clinic have demonstrated this is an effective tool in prison settings to test, diagnose and treat people. A recommendation to have POCT testing machines at reception on entry and exit
- More peer-led education and harm reduction strategies, as well as culturally safe and capable responses in centres is needed to support people’s health and wellbeing
- Implementation of harm reduction strategies, hepatitis C testing, treatment and support require a whole of centre approach, inclusive of education of Queensland Corrective Service Staff and other services
As background, the Queensland prison system is comprised of 14 correctional centres. Unlike other Australian jurisdictions there is no centralised health service for Queensland’s correctional centres. In the Queensland model, prison health services are the responsibility of the local hospital and health service (HHS), translating to variation in hepatitis C treatment uptake across the state, and a range of unique models of care.
This event would not have been possible without the dedication and effort of the 2022 Prison Forum Steering. ASHM is grateful to have their expertise and the time given to create such a successful day.
ASHM will look towards commencing planning for the 2023 Queensland Prison Forum and will continue to actively advocate and engage in strategies focused on the treatment, care and support of people living with hepatitis C.
If you would like to find out more on Queensland Prison Forum, contact HepatitisC@ashm.org.au.