Government weighing up €1.35 million for prisoner Hepatitis C treatment

A prison (picture is illustrative).
A prison (picture is illustrative). Source: ERR

The Ministry of Justice has requested €1.35 million in order to treat prisoners for Hepatitis C. The finance ministry has approved the application, which must now be discussed at cabinet level. The current resources allow for treatment for Hepatitis C to about 10 prisoners, but the actual figure who need it is many times this figure. Treatment in prison is also required under the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR).

According to the Ministry of Justice, 700 prisoners have been tested for hepatitis C, with a third of these having undergone all pre-treatment tests according to which they should normally receive immediate treatment. 

In prisons, however, this has not always been possible due to lack of money.

At the same time, both Estonian law and the position of the European Court of Human Rights states that health care should be provided in prisons at a level at least in accordance with the general level of medical science.

The absence of this could violate the ECHR.

The justice ministry also says that the capacity of prisons to treat hepatitis C has nonetheless improved compared with previous years, with equipment for treatment-related testing being acquired.

The necessary analysis can be also performed faster during treatment courses, and treatment courses using new drugs are shorter than before. A prison is able to provide treatment for hepatitis C to those being detained, for instance when awaiting trial, as well as those serving short sentences.

The Ministry of Justice notes that hepatitis treatment costs an average of about €9,000 per prisoner, meaning that for 2020, with €100,000 in the basic budget, prisons only have the capacity to treat ten prisoners.

Given that there are at least 150 people in need of treatment in prisons, the Ministry of Justice is requesting a further €1,350,000 from the government reserve for the treatment of hepatitis C through 2020.

Hepatitis C is an infectious disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). It can be symptomless in early stages, but can lead to liver complications and other damage further down the line.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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