APPROVAL for a new €30 million centre for the Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) in Cork is to be sought from the Government in the near future.
Proposals for the new centre, due to be located within the campus of Cork University Hospital (CUH), are expected to be presented to the Cabinet by Health Minister Mary Harney over the coming weeks.
A senior official at the Department of Health told the Dáil Public Accounts Committee (PAC) yesterday that a final decision to sanction the new facility was likely soon.
The existing IBTS centre in Cork still operates out of prefabricated buildings at St Finbarr’s Hospital, despite the fact that plans for a new, purpose-built centre were first submitted in 2003.
At one stage the Irish Medicines Board threatened to withdraw accreditation from the centre because of the poor state of facilities at its current site. However, IBTS chief executive
Andrew Kelly said the existing centre at St Finbarr’s was deemed compliant following a €3m investment in 2004.
PAC chairperson Bernard Allen expressed concern at the lack of progress and ongoing delays in establishing the new centre given the need for it was first identified a decade ago. He claimed improvements to the existing prefabs had represented “a sticking plaster solution”.
However, Mr Allen expressed surprise that the proposed site of the new facility was within the grounds of CUH. The Fine Gael TD claimed it seemed an impractical location as the CUH campus is also due to accommodate a private hospital under the Government’s controversial co-location health policy and would appear too congested.
Mr Kelly told the PAC hearing yesterday that it had already set aside €5m of its own money towards the development of the new centre which was estimated to cost €30m at 2006 prices.
The IBTS has also spent €4m between its centres in Dublin and Cork in recent years to eliminate “exorbitant” overtime payments.
The PAC also heard that an investigation by the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General had highlighted how the IBTS had to write off almost €730,000 out of a total expenditure of €1.9m on a new IT system for controlling blood-banking activities because it was deemed unsuitable after numerous problems arose during its testing stage.
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