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New Zealanders Infected by Hepatitis C to Receive Compensation

The New Zealand government recently announced the creation of a $30 million compensation package for people who contracted hepatitis C (HCV) from the blood supply prior to the implementation of donor screening in July 1992. HCV screening technology had already been widely available for over two years before the New Zealand government instituted the process. The announcement was made on December 5, 2006 by Health Minister Pete Hodgson.

It is estimated that approximately 700 New Zealanders were infected by HCV-contaminated blood or blood products. Among this total are approximately 185 individuals with hemophilia who contracted HCV through contaminated factor concentrates. The compensation will include one-time payments of up to $70,000 and a written statement of regret from Prime Minister Helen Clark. The government has also agreed to allocate $5 million per year to improve access to HCV treatment.

The announcement comes after a protracted, 14-year lobbying effort by the Haemophilia Foundation of New Zealand and other groups. Steve Waring, a 42-year-old with hemophilia and HCV, is one of several advocates who had been calling for compensation and official government recognition of the toll taken on this community. “People want to know that the Government finally understands how serious hepatitis C is, that there have been lessons learned, and it is acknowledging that things could've been done better,” he said.

To date 28 New Zealanders with hemophilia and HCV have already died. “I am very conscious of the families of the people who have died, they're in the back of my mind,” said Waring. “But it's wonderful that we've got some good news, we've got something delivered and we've got some action.”

Source: The Dominion Post, December 6, 2006


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