Haemophiliacs accuse Martin of inaction

HAEMOPHILIACS infected by contaminated blood products have accused the Government of stonewalling in its pledge to examine the drug companies that supplied the tainted stock.

In a letter last night to Health Minister Micheál Martin the Irish Haemophiliac Society (IHS) condemns him for:

Failing to put the National Haemophilia Council on a statutory footing, two years after the Lindsay Tribunal recommended its establishment.

Failing to begin an investigation into pharmaceutical companies that manufactured contaminated products which subsequently infected more than 260 haemophiliacs with HIV and hep C.

Delays of up to nine months in helping the DPP when his office sought the Department of Health’s assistance with the Lindsay report for the purpose of undertaking a criminal investigation.

Refusing to remedy difficulties with the hep C and HIV compensation scheme.

IHS administrator Margaret Dunne, who wrote the letter, was also highly critical of Mr Martin’s lack of progress in setting up an insurance scheme for haemophiliacs.

“It is noted that although you have been directly responsible for the advancement of this matter for a period of four years, that it has not come to a conclusion.”

In the meantime, patients who could have availed of the insurance scheme had died, Ms Dunne said.

The IHS said Mr Martin had also failed to honour his commitment that personal testimonies of haemophiliacs infected with HIV and hep C would be published.

Funding commitments to the IHS were questioned and concerns raised about the potential impact of the 2004 Civil Liabilities and Courts Bill on the compensation scheme.

The IHS letter was released on the eve of today’s meeting between the IHS and Mr Martin.

A spokeswoman for the minister said the issues raised in the letter would be addressed and said the Minister was taking ongoing legal advice with regard to putting the National Haemophilia Council on a statutory footing.

The spokeswoman said he was also committed to investigating the role of the pharmaceutical companies and awaited the enactment of the Commissions of Investigation legislation as a possible instrument to carry out such investigation.

Meanwhile, Fine Gael TD Bernard Allen criticised Mr Martin for not taking appropriate action to safeguard haemophiliacs from exposure to contaminated blood products.

“Lindsay specifically recommended that a sufficient number of consultant haematologists be appointed to provide adequately for persons with haemophilia.”

He said in Cork University Hospital there are only two haematologists even though the number of patients with blood disorders had risen to 221 this year.

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