Australia: Poor Health Care in Victoria's Jails a "Major Threat"
August 31, 2011
Prisons in Victoria have poor mental health care access and extraordinarily high rates of untreated hepatitis C, according to a report delivered to Parliament Tuesday. Of state prisoners, 41 percent have hepatitis C, compared with 1 percent of the general population, according to Ombudsman George Brouwer's report.
"A general practitioner interviewed by my investigators described the failure to treat hepatitis C within the prison system as having a 'catastrophic effect' on the broader community," Brouwer's report says. "It is likely that this virus could unduly burden the public health care system in the future."
"The level of mental health services available for the male prison population is grossly inadequate," the report states. While almost one-third of male inmates have been diagnosed with a mental health condition, there is just one psychiatric bed per 88 male prisoners, compared with one for every 16 female prisoners, investigators found.
Hepatitis C treatment is being provided in just three of the state's 14 prisons. Insufficient transfer arrangements caused many appointments with specialists to be broken. In addition, prisoners are reluctant to seek medical treatment at Port Phillip Prison, fearing loss of their allocated cell, work privileges, and personal security.
"They [prisoners] would literally rather die than go to Port Phillip, so they are refusing medical management," one doctor interviewed said.
Agreeing with the recommendation to treat hepatitis C among prisoners, the Department of Justice said eligible inmates would access it contingent on funding. "Full implementation of this recommendation is unlikely to be feasible given the resources currently available to the department," DOJ said.
Brouwer also criticized the delay in the implementation of his recommendation that prisoners be given condoms and dental dams. Roll-out of the program began last week; the ombudsman called for it in 2006.
The Age (Melbourne)
08.31.2011; David Rood
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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