Australia: Web: Govt Accused Of Sitting On Hepatitis C Report Pubdate: Fri, 22 Aug 2003 Source: Australian Broadcasting Corporation (Australia Web) Copyright: 2003 Australian Broadcasting Corporation

GOVT ACCUSED OF SITTING ON HEPATITIS C REPORT The Howard Government has been criticised for keeping a report on the spread of hepatitis C under wraps for almost a year. The federal Health Department report warns the virus, which affects more than 210,000 Australians and can lead to liver cancer, is on the rise and may affect about 500,000 people by 2020. It says there has been inadequate research and surveillance and a lack of resources to fight the disease. Stuart Loveday from the Australian Hepatitis Council says the Government has had the findings since last November but has not acted on them. "It's as if the Federal Government has hit the pause button," he said. "Nothing seems to be happening at a national level and there are services on the ground which are being threatened." Federal Health Minister Kay Patterson has defended her position, saying the report was ordered ahead of time as the basis for a new five-year strategy to combat the disease. "I have asked for a coordinated response to that report," she said. "Of course we won't agree with everything in the report and the states won't always agree with everything in the report either." Labor's health spokeswoman, Julia Gillard, says the Minister must act immediately. "We were appalled that the Minister sat on this report for as long as she has," she said. "What needs to be done is she needs to work quickly and in partnership with all of the stakeholders groups rather than just having the report gather mould as it sits on the edge of her desk." ________________________________________________________