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Irish Government Briefing Provides Update on Compensation Payments

In a recent briefing, Ireland’s Department of Health reported updated figures associated with the Hepatitis C and HIV Compensation Tribunal. The Dublin-based Irish Times reported on seeing Internal Department of Health documents showing that the tribunal has already paid out €778 million (over $1 billion dollars) to more than 2,200 claimants. The briefing papers state that there are an additional 1,100 cases still pending a hearing by the tribunal, which will eventually push the sum total of compensation to over €1.1 billion.

“The tribunal’s conservative estimate for the cost of settling these claims is €381 million,” states the briefing. “Nearly 500 relate to claims arising after death, and nearly 400 relate to claims for loss of consortium and/or carer claims.”

The tribunal was initially established by the Irish government in 1995 to compensate people within the Republic of Ireland infected with hepatitis C through the use of plasma-derived Human Immunoglobulin Anti-D (therapy for pregnant women), blood products or by a blood transfusion. Affected family members – spouses and children – and caregivers could also make a claim for compensation. In 2002, the Hepatitis C Compensation Tribunal Amendment Act expanded compensation to include people infected with HIV-tainted blood products, including family and caregivers. At least half of the approximately 500 people living with hemophilia in Ireland contracted hepatitis C and/or HIV/AIDS through the use of contaminated blood products.

The briefing also pointed to the government-funded insurance support plan that was created last year to address obstacles facing those infected by blood and blood products, such as an inability to procure mortgage protection and life insurance. The 25-year-long plan may cost as much as €90 million (over $122 million dollars).

In addition, health officials said last year that the cost of providing free drugs and medical services to those infected by contaminated blood products would also increase considerably. “The average cost per eligible person is €10,000, but will increase as the cohort ages, particularly in respect of home support services and home nursing,” said health officials.
The Department of Health also confirmed that by representing victims of the blood contamination scandals at the compensation tribunal, a group of law firms have collected approximately €95million (nearly $130 million dollars) in legal fees. In response, Brian O’ Mahony of the Irish Haemophilia Society expressed no misgivings about the amount of money spent on the cases but instead shifted the focus back to the people. “The real cost has been the human cost,” said O’ Mahony. To date, 81 men with hemophilia in Ireland have died from complications of viral infections linked to blood products.

Source: The Irish Times, August 22, 2007 and the Irish Independent, August 23, 2007


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