Hepatitis C group seeks orders over HSE agreement


A support group for women infected with hepatitis C as a result of receiving contaminated blood products from the Irish Blood Transfusion Board has claimed the alteration of an agreement with the HSE will deprive it of funding.

Positive Action is seeking High Court orders staying implementation by the HSE of a decision requiring the organisation to enter into a standard service agreement used by the HSE for its financial relationships with non-statutory bodies.

The group says it is entitled to continued implementation of its existing agreement with the HSE and the new decision will result in it losing essential funding. The decision, made last March, is irrational and breaches fair procedures, it is also alleged.

Yesterday the group asked Mr Justice Michael Moriarty for an order requiring the HSE to release to it certain information for the action due to be heard next month. The HSE disputed the need for the information and claimed the group was engaged on a “fishing expedition”. Mr Justice Moriarty said he would give his decision later this week.

Earlier, Niall Fitzgibbon, for Positive Action, said the information sought, which includes HSE internal memos, was essential to establish the core argument that the group had a legitimate expectation it would not be subject to a standard or generic service agreement with the HSE.

In its statement of grounds, Positive Action claims the HSE first notified the group in 2008 of its intention to introduce governance/contractual arrangements for grant aiding all non-statutory or voluntary organisations through standard agreements.

Following talks, a “bespoke agreement” for Positive Action was drawn up which safeguarded the “unique objects, role and functions” of the group compared to other voluntary organisations, thereby ensuring its autonomy and independence, it is claimed.That agreement was renewed in 2010 and 2011 but the HSE said last November the standard agreement would have to apply in 2012, it is claimed.

Last March the HSE said it could only continue funding on the basis of the standard agreement and that decision was part of national policy.