Free care to non-Hep C Anti-D women denied

Tue, Oct 23, 2012, 01:00

THE MINISTER for Health has rejected a request to extend entitlement to special medical services to women who received contaminated blood but have tested negative for Hepatitis C.

Dr James Reilly said extending eligibility for services to those who tested negative for Hepatitis C would have significant cost implications.

He was responding to a request from Sinn Féin health spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin to use his powers under the Hepatitis C Compensation Tribunal Act to broaden eligibility.

Mr Ó Caoláin said many women who got blood products from contaminated batches of Anti-D in 1977-79 and 1991-94 had severe health problems consistent with testing positive.

Anti-D immunoglobulin is a life-saving blood product that prevents the build-up of harmful antibodies in a mother’s blood. However, some of the batches manufactured by the Blood Transfusion Service Board became infected during these two time periods.

Dr Reilly said the Health Amendment Act card was given to people who contracted Hepatitis C from the administration, within the State, of blood or blood products. Entitlement to a card was decided by the HSE and was determined by a diagnostic test. It entitles the holder to a range of services including GP visits, prescribed drugs, home help, dental and optical appliances, and physiotherapy.

A great deal of consideration had been given to the issue of people who got Anti-D but neither tested positive for Hepatitis C nor had a decision of the tribunal in their favour, the Minister told Mr Ó Caoláin.

A number of women who had tested negative for Hepatitis C had experienced a variety of symptoms, he said. “However, there is no scientific proof that the symptoms are specific evidence of Hepatitis C infection. Indeed some symptoms of Hepatitis C, such as fatigue, fibromyalgia and depression, are common conditions that occur in the general population.”

An estimated 16,000 Irish women were exposed to potentially infectious batches of Anti-D. About 1,000 of them became infected with Hepatitis C.