HSE to withdraw funding from anti-D scandal support group

The future of a support group for women given contaminated blood products by the State is in serious doubt following indications that the HSE is to pull its funding.

The Irish Examiner understands members of the executive of Positive Action were to be formally notified last night of the move. This follows the completion of work on Wednesday of an administrator appointed by the HSE on January 31 to ensure “appropriate expenditure of public monies”.

It has previously been reported that a Garda investigation is underway into aspects of the organisation. However, the Garda Press Office did not respond to queries from the Irish Examiner in relation to this.

A statement from the Department of Health said Health Minister James Reilly was being kept abreast of the matter by the HSE. Positive Action did not respond to phonecalls last night.

Positive Action received substantial funding from the HSE — on average €600,000 per year — between 2006 and 2011. In 2008, the HSE signalled it wanted to move from the “bespoke” model of funding the group enjoyed to the standardised funding arrangements that apply to other voluntary bodies, but Positive Action resisted the move, mounting a High Court challenge.

Positive Action argued in court that a standardised agreement did not take account of its unique status as an advocacy organisation, advancing the interests of a group wronged by state action and inaction.

However, Mr Justice George Birmingham, in a judgment delivered last May, ruled in the HSE’s favour, saying: “It seems to me that the terms on which a voluntary organisation will be funded and, indeed, the question of whether a particular organisation should receive funds, is quintessentially a matter for the executive.”

It is understood that the failed court case left Positive Action with a legal bill in the order of €750,000.

The cloud that Positive Action now finds itself under comes 20 years after it was founded and 20 years to the day that the Blood Transfusion Service Board held a press conference where it announced anti-D immunoglobulin manufactured and distributed by it between 1977 and 1991 may have been contaminated with Hepatitis C.

More than 1,000 women in Ireland were infected with the condition after receiving the anti-D which was given to mothers whose blood group was different to their babies to prevent haemolytic anemia in future pregnancies.

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