May 22, 2003
"There are not enough people in the state to treat and manage this infection right now," Arora said. Without treatment, 3,000 to 4,000 New Mexicans will die of the disease's complications or need a liver transplant in the next decade or two, he said.
The training program draws on UNM expertise in treating hepatitis C and uses telemedicine hook-ups to bring help to clinicians statewide. Pilot sites to test the program's effectiveness are being set up with the State Department of Corrections and the District III (Las Cruces) office of the state Department of Health. Fifty to 60 health care providers at those sites -- from pharmacists to physicians -- already have been trained in UNM's protocols for treating hepatitis C, according to Chris Oesterbo, program administrator.
By the middle of this month, telemedicine hook-ups should be ready to handle four-hour weekly sessions during which UNM experts will be on hand to discuss cases and offer advice to participating clinicians. That time commitment might be the biggest hurdle, Arora acknowledged. "A key issue is how to make this as painless as possible for rural providers. They have a very full plate," he said.
05.12.03; Jackie Jadrnak
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