Blood screening clinic opens for most vulnerable in our community

A new blood screening clinic opened today to give those suffering substance abuse or mental illness a safe and comfortable environment to discuss their health.

The clinic - located at Hawdon Street in Heidelberg - caters for same day testing of blood borne viruses and fibroscan screening for liver stiffness, scarring and cirrhosis.

The service is the first of its kind for Austin Health.

Hepatitis C Clinic Nurse Consultant Susan Campfield says because of the stigma and discrimination around substance abuse or mental illness it's difficult to engage with these patients who are more susceptible to contracting a blood borne virus.

"People with a psychiatric and mental illness are 20 times more likely to have Hepatitis C," she says.

"They may be using IV needles and sometimes people who are psychiatric or have bouts of psychosis don't remember these events."

Often they won't attend pathology appointments or collect their medication because they feel judged or stigmatised.

Their illness may also prevent them from giving consent for other health testing.

"We needed to set up a clinic where they visit and can feel comfortable," Susan says.

"The clinic will be open on a Thursday afternoon for a couple of hours - we can discuss their risk factors of blood borne virus and they can consent to blood testing and a fibroscreen at the clinic on the day.

"It's having a service that suits the needs of everybody and depending on their results, we can then direct them to receive appropriate care."

Susan says it's about finding the missing thousands in Australia who may have been screened for Hepatitis C but have never been given treatment.

"They're the people we need to find."