The Australian Government has announced that people who live or work, or have lived or worked, in the Williamtown Investigation Areas (click on link to access map) are eligible for a free blood test for Per- and Poly-fluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)
The Voluntary Blood Testing Program will run concurrently with an epidemiological study, and free blood testing will be available to eligible individuals until 31 March 2018.
Attached is a link to the Department of Health's PFAS webpage which has a range of fact sheets to assist practices if a person presents wishing to obtain a free PFAS blood test.
A Statutory Declaration will be required from the individual seeking a blood test, or the parent or guardian of a minor, to confirm they are eligible for a free blood test under this program.
Practitioners from anywhere in Australia who provide eligible consultations should bill consultations to the PHN.
To claim for services delivered under this program please download a claim from from the resources section on this page. Please contact our Finance team on 1300 859 028 if you need more information.
Sonic Healthcare has been engaged by the Australian Government to conduct the blood testing for the Voluntary Blood Testing Program. Sonic Healthcare will provide your practice with specially marked PFAS request forms that are pre-filled with the PFAS testing and billing requirements. This form should be provided to eligible people seeking a blood test under the Voluntary Blood Testing Program.
All blood tests under the Voluntary Blood Testing Program must be done by Sonic Healthcare. The Australian Government will not reimburse the costs of blood tests performed by other pathology providers.
The specially marked request forms will include a section for the individual to consent to their blood sample and result being transferred to the ANU to be included in the epidemiological study, and to consent to the study team contacting them in the future.
Patients must take their completed Statutory Declaration and specially marked PFAS request forms to a Sonic Healthcare Pathology Collection Centre. Sonic Healthcare will use the Statutory Declaration as evidence to bill the government. Specific PFAS request forms are available from Sonic by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or phoning 02 9855 5437.
Any other consultations in relation to possible PFAS-related health issues, including with individuals not eligible for a free blood test under the Voluntary Blood Testing Program, or further consultations regarding blood test results should follow your practice’s normal fee arrangements.
Under the Voluntary Blood Testing Program, individual blood test results will be reported to the requesting GP within 7 days through the practice’s usual channel for receiving pathology results.
It is recommended that an individual’s blood test result be discussed with them in person so that an appropriate explanation of the results can be provided; including the limitations of PFAS blood testing in individuals.
Free counselling sessions are available
Incidents such as that which has occurred in Williamtown, can trigger a wide variety of responses over time including anger, anxiety, fear, sadness and confusion. There is no wrong or right way to respond to things like this and all these responses are perfectly normal when faced with major life stressors. It is important to remember though, that prolonged exposure to stress and these types of feelings associated with it can have a long term negative affect on both your physical and mental health. We know that strong social connections and communities go a long way in supporting health and wellbeing in difficult times. When entire communities are affected by high levels of stress, individuals can feel isolated and unable to rely on their traditional supports due to not wanting to add to the stress of others. A combination of prolonged stress and isolation can result in declines in your physical and mental health and wellbeing.
HNECC PHN has commissioned free and confidential counselling services using our network of private providers specifically to support the needs of current and past residents and community members of the affected Williamtown area. These services are private and the PHN does not collect any personal information regarding participants accessing these services other than basic unidentifiable, demographic data. Patients do not have to have had a blood test to access these free counselling sessions.
Whilst we encourage eligible people to engage with their GP in the referral process to this service, community members are free to self-refer directly to our private providers. This service is available to anyone affected by the Williamtown PFAS incident whether they currently live in the area or not. Counselling providers are available at times that suit you to provide free confidential counselling across the Hunter, New England or Central Coast regions.
A list of the contracted mental health providers is attached to the Resources section on this page. If you now reside out of these areas, please contact the PHN and we can arrange a private provider in your preferred location.