‘A very difficult couple of months’

Disagreement with the HSE over funding dates back a number of years

In a letter sent to members of the hepatitis C support group, Positive Action last week, its chairwoman Antoinette Fitz- gerald said it had been a “very difficult couple of months” for the organisation as it “has had to operate with very limited funding because the HSE and Positive Action are not yet in a position to agree any further funding”.

In a letter sent to members of the hepatitis C support group, Positive Action last week, its chairwoman Antoinette Fitz- gerald said it had been a “very difficult couple of months” for the organisation as it “has had to operate with very limited funding because the HSE and Positive Action are not yet in a position to agree any further funding”.

Thu, Feb 6, 2014, 01:01

In a letter sent to members of the hepatitis C support group, Positive Action last week, its chairwoman Antoinette Fitz- gerald said it had been a “very difficult couple of months” for the organisation as it “has had to operate with very limited funding because the HSE and Positive Action are not yet in a position to agree any further funding”.

However, while matters may have come to a head last week, disagreement between the organisation and the HSE dates back a lot further.

In November 2011, the HSE wrote to Positive Action saying that for 2012, it would be required to sign a standard service level agreement as required of all section 39 agencies in receipt of funding in excess of €250,000 per annum from the HSE.


Court orders
A year later Positive Action sought High Court orders aimed at putting a stay on the HSE’s requirement for the organisation to enter into the standard service agreement.

It argued that the alteration of the funding agreement in place until that point would deprive it of essential funding.

In March 2013, the group began judicial review proceedings against the HSE over its requirement that it enter into a standard service-level agreement.

It contended the proposed agreement did not take account of its unique status as an advocacy organisation advancing the interests of clients wronged by State action and inaction, and that the generic agreement would undermine and diminish its independence and autonomy.

However, in May 2013, Mr Justice George Birmingham ruled against the organisation, saying that“no illegality attaches to the decision of the HSE to impose conditions in relation to future funding”.

Positive Action is a support group run by a voluntary executive committee for women infected with hepatitis C through the contaminated blood product anti-D and their families

The group, which had 736 members as of the beginning of 2012, provides supports including a drop-in centre in Dublin, monthly, bimonthly or quarterly regional meetings around the country, and workshops, training programmes and weekends away for its members.


Weekends away
In 2010 it spent €84,000 on four weekends for its members and/or members of their families – including €16,076 in costs for a weekend at the Killeshin Hotel in Portlaoise for 51 members and another at the Strand Hotel, Limerick City in April 2010, for 31 mem- bers and 25 non-members, with a net cost of €21,041.

In correspondence with the HSE, the organisation said the weekends had proven “to be of significant value to our members and their families, bearing in mind that the whole family is affected by hepatitis C”.

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