Speeches

Concluding Statement by Micháel Martin T.D., Minister for Health and Children on the Dáil Motion on the Report of the Lindsay Tribunal

I wish to thank all those who contributed to the debate on this motion on the Lindsay Tribunal Report. No words can describe the gravity of issues examined by this Inquiry and the human loss and suffering that resulted from the infection with HIV and Hepatitis C of the haemophilia community.

The Government acknowledges the courage of those who gave personal testimony to the Tribunal and on behalf of the State I unreservedly apologise to these persons and their families. In order to ensure that these personal testimonies are put on record and given the acknowledgement which is their due, I have decided that they should be published as a memorial to the braveness and courage of those who have borne witness at the Tribunal. I will also ensure that this publication is undertaken in consultation with the Irish Haemophilia Society, is available at no cost, and is circulated as widely as possible.

As I informed the House on 23rd October, the Government has decided to accept the findings of the Report in full. Having considered the Report carefully, the Government has also decided to refer it to the Director of Public Prosecutions, as a mark of the seriousness with which it views the events which are documented in the Report . My officials forwarded the Report to the Director of Public Prosecutions last Friday. As the report itself acknowledges, the events that were investigated took place a long time ago. Significant improvements have taken place since then in relation to services for people with haemophilia. The Tribunal found that the situation in Ireland regarding the supply of recombinant clotting factor products now compares very favourably with many other countries and was remarked upon by many of the international experts who gave evidence to the Tribunal. We have a state of the art facility at the National Centre for Hereditary Coagulation Disorders. There is ongoing communication between the Centre and the Irish Haemophilia Society in relation to the management of haemophilia. A person-centered service where the voice of the consumer is a key factor in shaping the services provided is a pivotal aspect of service development. My Department is in consultation with consultant haematologists around the country and with the Irish Haemophilia Society to ensure that services adhere to the highest standards of quality and there is optimal co-ordination of services. I will meet the Irish Haematology Society and the Irish Haemophilia Society in the coming weeks to ensure that their respective views are taken on board in the development of all services.

I have already outlined to the House how my Department intends to implement all of the recommendations in the Lindsay report. In particular, the Department will proceed with the establishment, on a statutory footing, of a national haemophilia co-ordinating committee, which will be called the National Haemophilia Council. Representation on the Committee will include professionals involved in haemophilia care, the Irish Haemophilia Society, representing consumers of the service, health boards, my Department and relevant interests. The results of poor communciation and lack of co-ordination of services in the past point to the need for a streamlined uniform system of communication between service providers and a consistent high quality system of care delivered throughout the country. The Council will oversee, monitor and advise on all aspects of haemophilia care. Its overall aim will be to ensure improved communication between clinicians and improved co-ordination of services resulting in a consistent quality of care whether a person being treated for haemophilia lives in Donegal, Dublin or Kerry.

A major sub-group of the National Haemophilia Council will be the Product Selection and Monitoring Group. A key task of this Group will be to ensure that all decisions in relation to the selection, procurement, distribution and monitoring of products used in the treatment of haemophilia adhere to the highest standards. The Irish Haemophilia Society will play a pivotal role on this committee, along with the National Centre for Hereditary Coagulation Disorders, the Irish Blood Transfusion Service, health boards, and other relevant interests. An ad hoc Group is already in place for over a year now and shortly its membership will be expanded to involve key professionals with an expertise in various aspects of haemophilia treatment.

I am grateful to the Irish Haemophilia Society for its close co-operation with my Department over the years. I wish to particularly acknowledge the contribution of Mr Brian O´Mahony, Chairman of the Society. Brian is also President of the World Haemophilia Federation, which is evidence of the high esteem in which he and the Society are held both at home and abroad. I must also acknowledge the significant input of Ms Rosemary Daly, who worked tirelessly over the years in the cause of the Irish Haemophilia Society and its members. I understand that Rosemary is now enjoying a well earned sabbatical from her role as Administrator of the Society, and I wish her well for the future.

The Society requested an increase of €300,000 in its funding at a recent meeting with me. Having considered their request, I am pleased to inform the House that I intend to provide an additional €300,000 to the Society next year to enable it to enhance the services it provides to persons with haemophilia. There has been criticism about the cost of the Lindsay report which was set at €10 per copy. When the cost was being determined it was seen as reasonable relative to the Finlay Report which cost £5 in 1995. However, the Irish Haemophilia Society has pointed out that €10 is very high relative to the €1 charged for the interim report on the Flood Tribunal. While the Society acquired as many copies as it requested free of charge from my Department I consider that the point which they have made regarding the cost is valid, and as a result I am going to request the Government Publications Office to make the Report available at the nominal charge of €1. Copies will also continue to be available from my Department on request, and an electronic version is availaible on the Department´s website.

Calls have been made for a further inquiry into the actions of certain multinational pharmaceutical companies (based in the USA) whose products were implicated in the infection of persons with haemophilia with Hepatitis C and HIV. Judge Lindsay considered it inappropriate to comment on whether there should be a further inquiry into the actions of certain multinational pharmaceutical companies (based in the USA) whose products were implicated in the infection of persons with haemophilia with Hepatitis C and HIV, since I had commissioned and obtained independent advice on the matter. As I have already informed this House, I appointed Mr. Paul Gardiner, Senior Counsel, to advise me on a possible investigation into the actions of these multinational pharmaceutical companies. I have had full consultations with Mr. Gardiner and, subject to further discussion with the Attorney General, I re-iterate my belief that it would be possible to mount a useful investigation which would allow access to publicly available material and to persons and bodies willing to co-operate. I am in consultation with the Attorney General and all other parties, including the Irish Haemophilia Society, on an effective template, following which I will revert to the Government and the Dáil on my proposals.

I wish to conclude by thanking the Judge Ms Alison Lindsay, her staff, and the very many people who contributed to, or co-operated with, the Tribunal.

I commend this Motion to the House.