A 22-year-old man has hit out at the Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH) for insensitive treatment and a lack of understanding of the Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) drug course.

Robert – who asked that his surname not be included — took a 26-year-old friend from St Albans to the RMH emergency department on April 20 seeking PEP treatment, only to be left waiting six hours because nursing staff were unsure what the treatment was.

“Before we arrived, we called up the emergency department and we spoke to a nurse … and they had absolutely no idea what PEP was, we had to explain,” Robert told Southern Star.

“We really had no confidence they understood what the situation was.”

Robert said his friend was unaware of PEP and was potentially exposed to HIV for 48 hours. His GP, who he had seen the previous day, also failed to alert him to PEP.

To be most effective PEP must be started within 72 hours of exposure to the HIV virus.

Robert said dealings with the hospital became tense when his friend questioned the length of time emergency staff were taking to attend to him.

He said although his friend did eventually receive treatment, he was clearly distressed and “on the verge of crying” the whole time.

RMH media spokesman Rod Jackson-Smith refused to comment on how often staff are trained in PEP, but said RMH had “excellent Post
Exposure Prophylaxis protocols in place” and “clinical staff [are] trained and well-versed in them and understand the need for applying them promptly”.

Although Victoria’s PEP service is administered by The Alfred, which provides setup training and additional education by request, an Alfred spokesman said health services operate “independently” and are responsible for their own staff training.

Victorian AIDS Council executive director Mike Kennedy said the only way people could ensure correct treatment was via the 24-hour PEP phone service.

“Our advice to people is always ring that 1800 number, which will get you through to The Alfred 24 hours a day you’ll be put through to someone who knows exactly what’s going on and how to get you treatment fairly quickly,” Kennedy said.

info: The Alfred’s 24-hour PEP line is 1800 889 887

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