Health agency to restrict funding for hepatitis C groups


THE HEALTH Service Executive is to restrict funding to two support groups for people affected by hepatitis C from contaminated blood products while it seeks further information of the groups’ spending for 2010 and 2011.

Transfusion Positive and Positive Action, receive €860,000 between them annually, according to the HSE.

Transfusion Positive, based in Clanwilliam Square, Dublin, which represents men, women and children infected with hepatitis C through contaminated blood products within the State, received €308,000 last year, HSE figures show.

Positive Action, based in Fitzwilliam Square, Dublin, is a support group run by a voluntary executive committee for women infected with hepatitis C through the contaminated blood product anti-D, which was manufactured by the Irish Blood Transfusion Board, and their families.

It received €558,000 in funding in 2011, according to the HSE.

In a statement, a spokeswoman said the HSE had “sought further information relating to expenditure by these organisations” in 2010 and 2011.

“The HSE must ensure that funding provided to organisations is spent for the purposes intended and that there is appropriate governance, probity and transparency in relation to all funded groups.”

The spokeswoman said the executive was in the process of agreeing funding for both organisations for 2012. “The HSE has advised both groups to submit funding applications with stipulated detail on proposed spending for 2012. The HSE is awaiting such proposals from the groups.”

She said the executive had advised both that until funding arrangements were agreed for 2012, funding would be available to them only to cover fixed costs such as rent, utility bills and service charges.

She added that “no liability for expenditure relating to discretionary spend” would be accepted by it until funding arrangements for 2012 were agreed.

It is understood that in relation to Transfusion Positive, the HSE is examining whether funds provided by it were used for golf outings and weekends away for its members and their non-infected family members.

A Transfusion Positive spokeswoman said the organisation had not yet submitted a funding application form for 2012 and confirmed that in the interim, the HSE was providing for its fixed costs.

“Our organisation is in discussion with the HSE as it is seeking to unilaterally change the agreement made with Transfusion Positive by the Government,” she said.” The HSE is aware in advance of all expenditure by Transfusion Positive. When asked about the golf outings, she declined to comment.

A spokeswoman for Positive Action said the HSE had not informed the organisation that its funding was to be restricted.

She said the organisation met all appropriate governance and accountability standards.

“Funding is spent providing services for members as they cope daily with the consequences of a chronic illness that has a severe and significant impact on their quality of life and life expectancy.

“Positive Action has a finance agreement with the HSE, which states that we must provide audited accounts not later than May 31st each year. Positive Action has always submitted our audited accounts by the due date. Accounts for 2011 are not due yet.

“Our budget is agreed in advance with the HSE and our funding has always been used to benefit our members in line with our finance agreement with the HSE.”

The spokeswoman said it had submitted its application for funding for 2012 to the HSE at the end of 2011 and had arranged a meeting with the HSE at which it hoped to finalise funding for 2012.