Cost of pensions threatens blood transfusion service

IBTS collects 133,309 donations, meeting all hospital needs in 2014

The Irish Blood Transfusion Service  collected 133,309 blood donations from 80,688 donors in 2014, meeting all hospital needs for the year. Photograph: Getty Images

The Irish Blood Transfusion Service collected 133,309 blood donations from 80,688 donors in 2014, meeting all hospital needs for the year. Photograph: Getty Images

 

The cost of the Irish Blood Transfusion Service’s pension arrangement threatens the standard of its service, the organisation has said.

The IBTS recorded an actuarial loss of €48 million on its pension scheme in 2014. Total income for the year was €64.8 million with expenditure of €66.6 million. It reported an accumulated deficit at December 31st of €60 million compared to a deficit of €8.8 million on January 1st.

“The biggest challenge facing the IBTS is declining revenue and increasing costs from our pension arrangements,” said IBTS chief executive Andrew Kelly in the organisation’s 2014 annual report.

“The pension issues have impacts far in excess of the provisoin of pension arrangements. It threatens to seriously hinder the capacity of the IBTS to continue to deliver a blood transfusion service to the highest standards of quality and efficacy.”

According to the report, a protracted process of consultation involving unions, management, the Department of Health and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform was ongoing throughout 2014.

“The services of the Labour Relations Commission was utilised to assist with the ongoing impasse. Further consultation with the Commission is planned,” the report says.

The service collected 133,309 blood donations from 80,688 donors in 2014, meeting all hospital needs for the year.

Although the figure is a decline of 2 per cent compared to 2013, when 82,697 people donated, the transfusion service said this is because of lower demand from hospitals reflecting changes in surgical and medical practices.

IBTS medical and scientific director William Murphy also said there was now a more efficent screening system in place for potential donors.

“During the summer of 2014 we changed the way donors are checked for anaemia before they can donate,” Dr Murphy said.

“The new method checks the haemoglobin level without needing the finger stick blood sample - there is less discomfort, and less delay at the clinics.

“For good measure the test is more robust, and it’s less sensitive to fluctuations from warm weather that have been a problem in previous summers. This resulted in far fewer donors being turned away, during the summer months especially.”

Blood lasts just 35 days while platelets and neonatal blood lasts between five and seven days. The IBTS aims to hold about seven days’ supply at any given time. Dr Murphy said summer 2014 was the first time in years that the IBTS didn’t have to run special advertising campaigns appealing for donations.

In 2014 the IBTS also carried out a number of studies on the frequency of Hepatitis E, a food borne disease that can lead to serious liver disease in hospital patients, in the Irish population.

“Our studies have shown that hepatitis E virus is present in about 1 in 5000 healthy donors. At the end of the year we requested additional support from the Department of Health to fund screening of blood donors for this virus in the future,” said Dr Murphy.