I propose to take Questions Nos. 37, 46, 84, 88, 111, 115, 149, 231 and 240 together.
I have been informed by the Blood Transfusion Service Board, that the number of persons who have been screened for hepatitis C under the national blood screening programme is 55,212 as at 10 October 1994. The number who have tested positive for hepatitis C antibodies as at 10 October 1994 is 1,013; 438 of these women are positive for the hepatitis C virus.
The Blood Transfusion Service Board has advised me that as at 10 October 1994, 1,222 children and 346 partners have been screened for hepatitis C. Up to 10 October 1994, ten children and three partners have tested positive for the hepatitis C antibodies. Two of these children have tested positive for the hepatitis C virus. Further investigations are underway in all these cases.
A comprehensive counselling programme involving medical consultants at the Blood Transfusion Service Board and general practitioners throughout the country was put in place by the Blood Transfusion Service Board for persons who received the Anti D product at the outset. Persons who tested positive for hepatitis C under the national blood screening programme were invited to Blood Transfusion Service Board consultations which took place in Dublin, Waterford, Wexford, Kilkenny, Clonmel, Cork, Limerick and Galway. To support the Blood Transfusion Service Board counselling services, a counselling programme was also structured by the Blood Transfusion Service Board with the Well Woman Centre in Dublin. Large group information meetings on hepatitis C were also held in Dublin, Waterford, Cork, Tralee, Limerick, Galway, Castlebar, Sligo, Monaghan, Mullingar and Donegal. Counselling in small groups, up to 20, is also being undertaken by the Blood Tranfusion Service Board. Individual psychological support is also available where this is considered necessary.
A limited ex gratia expenses scheme is being operated by the Blood Transfusion Service Board to ensure that all Anti D recipients are in a position to avail of the screening, counselling and treatment services.
Treatment for those who test positive for hepatitis C is being provided at the following six designated hospitals: St. Vincent's Hospital, Dublin; Beaumont Hospital, Dublin; Mater Hospital, Dublin; St. James's Hospital, Dublin; Cork Regional Hospital; University College Hospital, Galway.
A total of 421 women have undergone a liver biopsy. The hospitals do not have the patients' biopsy results broken down into the specific categories. The number of women who have been prescribed interferon is 27. I am not aware of any child or partner for whom treatment has been prescribed. I have been advised by the hospitals that the treatment being provided is being monitored and that the outcome of the treatment will be assessed in due course.
Treatment, including prescribed medication, is being provided by the public hospital service free of charge. As already announced in May last the VHI is providing cover towards the costs of private hospital accommodation and consultants' charges for members who test positive for hepatitis C arising from the national blood screening programme.
I have met with a deputation from Positive Action on two occasions and I have approved a grant of £5,000 from the Health allocation of national lottery funds which has issued to Positive Action. The funding required to support the services put in place for those who have tested positive for hepatitis C is being met by the Exchequer.
No consideration has yet been given to the question of compensation. I am awaiting the report of the expert group which I established in March last.
The services put in place for persons who have tested positive for hepatitis C under the national blood screening programme will be available for as long as they are required. The needs of those who have been diagnosed as positive for hepatitis C will be monitored and reassessed on an ongoing basis to ensure that the necessary support services are provided to meet their needs.