Haemophiliacs still waiting for unit

THERE is still no dedicated inpatient centre for people with haemophilia in Ireland — five years after a proposal to build one was given the green light.

Priority had been given to developing the specialist unit at St James’s Hospital in Dublin because of the high number of people with haemophilia who became caught up in the State’s blood contamination scandal.

The unit, proposed by the National Haemophilia Council, the national centre for haemophilia treatment at St James’s and the Irish Haemophilia Society (IHS), was given the go-ahead by the Department of Health and the health authority in 2003.

Almost three years ago, Health Minister Mary Harney told the society that the project would be completed once the design phase was finalised.

While there is a specialist outpatient haemophilia unit at St James’s, those who need inpatient care are placed in general wards in St James’s and other hospitals throughout the country.

Ms Harney opens the society’s annual conference in Dublin today where she will be reminded of her strong commitment to the new centre.

IHS chief executiveBrian O’Mahony said the new facility, currently at design stage, would not be completed until 2010 at the earliest, even if building began this year.

“Many of the people with haemophilia needing in-hospital specialised treatment are ill because of the failure of the State to protect them,” he stressed.

“We will be seeking assurances from the minister that, once design is completed, it will be built without further delay.”

Mr O’Mahony said the development of the unit was in the Health Service Executive’s list of projects to commence this year.

“The clinical management of patients with haemophilia would be optimised by having a specific inpatient unit,” said Mr O’Mahony.

The unit will have 12 beds, six for haemophilia and six for hepatology.

Infected blood products were responsible for infecting 106 haemophiliacs with HIV and 220 with hepatitis C. There have been 91 deaths.

“At this stage we have lost 24 members to hepatitis C and it is an increasing concern,” Mr O’Mahony said.

He pointed out that 67 people with haemophilia who died after contracting HIV from contaminated blood were also co-infected with hepatitis C.

There are about 130 haemophiliacs still alive in Ireland who have hep C.

The IHS celebrates its 40th anniversary at the conference, entitled Past, Present and Future.

There are about 450 people with haemophilia in Ireland and more than 180 regularly attend the society’s annual meetings.

Irish HaemophiliaSociety: 01-872 4466

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