For our last Community Spotlight of the year, we want to highlight the courage of Veronica Masters.
Veronica bravely accepted the interview request from CBC to talk about something she — and a number of other HCV-infected individuals — are facing as one of the main barriers to treatment: the cost of treatment. However, they are not only battling the cost of the treatment, they are struggling against access to the treatment:
The cost of a revolutionary medical treatment for hepatitis C is so high that only those with moderate liver disease will have the medicine provided under provincial pharmacare programs. (Carolyn Dunn, CBC News)
In the interview, Veronica details her struggles with the illness, and how she feels about not being “sick-enough” to qualify for funding for treatment.
Our HCV Nurse and General Manager, Shawn Sharma, was also in the interview and spoke on the struggle from the health care provider’s perspective:
“You have to see the patients through the months and they’re just always actively questioning you, ‘Why are you not wanting to treat me?'” Sharma says. “That in and of itself is difficult to kind of go home with every day as a health-care professional.” (CBC News)
The goal of VIDC’s involvement in the interview was to support Veronica is bringing attention to the struggle that a number of HCV-positive individuals face.
Here’s a quick snapshot of some important updates from VIDC.
UBC iCON South Asian CPC
On November 28, 2015 the VIDC team held its third special CPC. VIDC Community Pop-Up Clinics are are constantly evolving to accommodating different communities that would benefit from point-of-care testing for either HIV, HCV, or both. This year we have done a CPC at the World Hepatitis Day Vancouver Event 2015 for attendees, one for the Chinese community at the S.U.C.C.E.S.S. Health Fair 2015, and now a one for the South Asian Community. Just like the first two events, VIDC provided point-of-care HCV Testing, FibroScan® Testing, and a specialist consult for those who test positive
As a medical and research clinic, VIDC is involved with a number of clinical trials — specifically trials in HIV and HCV. One of which is AMBER, an AbbVie clinical study focused on treating chronic hepatitis C infection for genotype 1. Consequently, the VIDC team — led by Dr. Brian Conway — successfully enrolled the very first patient for the study.
Clinical studies like these are a very integral part of the cascade of care we provide at VIDC. These studies allow us to further engage patients in care, and provide them access (when applicable) to treatment options that are only available through clinical studies.
Red Ribbons for Life (RR4L)
Red Ribbons for Life 8 last November 29 was a huge success! Community organizations and its supporters, local politicians, pharmaceutical company representatives, and amazing performers came together to help raise money and awareness for HIV.
And of course, VIDC was there to support the cause — and to listen to our President and Medical Director, Dr. Brian Conway, give the keynote speech for the evening.
It was a lovely evening filled with music, laughter, and show-stopping performances shared with friends and family all present to support the fundraising efforts of RR4L.
On September 20, 2015 VIDC partnered with S.U.C.C.E.S.S. and had a Community Pop-Up Clinic (CPC) set up at their annual health fair. At the fair, we tested over 100 people for hepatitis C. And even provided FibroScan® options for those who tested positive, or who self-report being previously diagnosed with hepatitis B. We provided services in Mandarin, Cantonese, and English to ensure that information is being delivered efficiently.
RésoSanté Directory Launch
On September 22, 2015 RésoSanté launched their directory of health care professionals that can provide services in French. This year was a momentous event for them as their directory now has 1000 health care professionals in BC that cater to the Francophone community — and of course, VIDC is on the list! (If you don’t know, our President and Medical Director, Dr. Brian Conway, is a Francophone!) At the launch, Dr. Brian Conway was invited to speak on the importance of receiving health care in your own language.
The importance of this directory of French-speaking health care professionals cannot be underestimated. The best health care is provided in the best way possible at the time that it is first requested. One component of this excellence is to provide it in the right language. – Dr. Brian Conway
VIDC’s involvement in these events are the first steps we are taking into pursuing our commitment to providing a community-based holistic approach to treatment. Dr. Conway’s statement rings true regardless of what language or culture is in question — health is one of the few fundamental things that one should have access to, and this access should be facilitated through the right medium.
On June 1st the VIDC team, headed by Dr. Alexandra King and our HCV Nurse, Shawn Sharma, went up to Williams Lake to hold a Hepatitis C clinic for the community. Dr. King has been regularly holding clinics in the community for awhile now, and when she became part of VIDC, VIDC had the privilege to be part of this community initiative!
As reported in the Williams Lake Tribune article, the VIDC team will be visiting the community every month — and a few days ago, we brought great news! Along with Dr. King, Shawn, and our FibroScan® machine, our team brought something extra on this trip: a month’s worth of HEP C medication.
The biggest hurdle to getting started on HCV Treatment is getting access to the treatment, and at VIDC we help patients with the necessary paperwork to get them through that hurdle. That one month’s worth of medication for one patient is a great milestone for VIDC’s partnership with Williams Lake. Slowly but surely we are setting things in place to make treatment more accessible to the community.
In the coming months, VIDC is also planning to extend our reach to the neighboring communities. We are looking forward to holding pop-up clinics and HCV/HIV testing fairs in the neighboring communities in the very near future.
As part of the event, they had a Health Screening room set up with screening stations for blood pressure, glucose level, tuberculosis (TB), and liver health. We came in with our FibroScan® machine and was greeted by very friendly First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) staff with a full two-day list (and quite a huge waiting list) of people interested in getting their liver tested — there was no time to waste!
There was no lull time as we screened people one after the other. Everyone was very excited to find out about the machine (and about their liver health too, I’m sure). As part of our team, we had our HCV Nurse Shawn Sharma, RN BSN administer the screening and Dr. Alexandra King MD, FRCPC consulting with the patients about the results.
Overall, it was such a great experience being part of the forum. The energy from everyone working together to improve the health and wellness of the First Nation communities was simply surreal!