Responsibility for the organisation and management of the Irish Blood Transfusion Service is a matter for its board of management. In April 2000 the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children published its report on single site testing of blood products. The Joint Committee considered that the import of the presentations made to it might be that the security, back-up and synergy provided through enhancing the current two site testing arrangements seem significantly superior to relying on a new and, as yet, unproven centre for all the country's blood testing facilities. The report also refers to the need to ensure optimal patient care in accordance with international practice and to optimise resources to the maximum possible degree. It also refers to the risk of contamination of centralised laboratories and of closure due to industrial problems.
I understand that the board's preliminary consideration of the report took place at its meeting on 10 May 2000 and detailed consideration of the report is now taking place. I expect to meet the board as soon as it completes its consideration of the report. I also understand that the Joint Committee is meeting with representatives of the board tomorrow concerning the report.
The committee's report also refers to contention between two of the IBTS centres. I have also been informed by the board that its objective is to develop a national cohesive organisation which meets the needs of the hospital services effectively and efficiently. This objective is based on the need to address weaknesses identified in a number of reports including the report of the expert group on the BTSB, the Bain report and the report of the tribunal of inquiry into the BTSB – the Finlay report. Staff of the IBTS are located at three centres at present, namely, Dublin, Cork and Limerick. Additional staff will be located at two new mobile blood collection centres which are being established in Carlow and Ardee, County Louth. The board recently reviewed progress to date in achieving this key objective and considers that further action is now required given the establishment of two additional mobile centres.
The board fully recognises the importance of the participation of staff in the ongoing development of the organisation and in improving services to hospitals throughout the country. The board is also developing a revised committee/team structure which will ensure appropriate and ongoing involvement of staff in the planning and implementation of board policy. The board will review the implementation of this initiative on an ongoing basis.
I remain concerned about the ongoing tension within the IBTS. I have raised this matter with the board and there is a strong obligation on all concerned to resolve outstanding issues that have given rise to this tension.