Dublin hospital to begin testing all ED patients for HIV and hepatitis

St James's Hospital treats 45,000 patients in its Emergency Department each year

St James's Hospital in Dublin is to start testing for HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C routinely for all patients attending its Emergency Department.

The hospital - which treats over 45,000 patients in the ED every year - says it is in a bid to diagnose new cases and provide the appropriate care.

It carried out an opt-out pilot screening programme last year for patients having blood tests taken in the ED. During that trial tests identified 97 HIV, 44 Hepatitis B and 447 Hepatitis C cases. Of those identified just over 7% were new HIV cases, 45% were new hepatitis B cases and nearly 13% were new hepatitis C cases. At the time of the pilot, almost 30% of people already diagnosed with hepatitis C were not receiving care.

St James's says the testing is in line with international best practise and comes following the pilot project which highlighted a prevalence of all three blood-borne viral infections amongst ED attendees.

Professor Patrick Plunkett, Medical Director of the Emergency Department at St James’s Hospital said: “The pilot project we conducted in March of last year clearly demonstrated high prevalence rates for all three infections in attendees of our Emergency Department and it was alarming to see the high numbers of new diagnoses.

“It is critically important for those diagnosed with any of these three blood-borne viral infections to receive continual care, some 84% of the previously disengaged patients from the pilot project are now successfully linked back to care”, Professor Plunkett concluded.