Expert to check blood claims
The Federal Minister for Health and Ageing, Senator Kay Patterson, has appointed a medical expert to undertake an independent review of claims of the possible contamination of blood products with Hepatitis C 12 years ago.
6 August 2002
Expert to check blood claimsThe Federal Minister for Health and Ageing, Senator Kay Patterson, has appointed a medical expert to undertake an independent review of claims of the possible contamination of blood products with Hepatitis C 12 years ago.
Professor Bruce Barraclough, Chairman of the Australian Council for Safety and Quality in Health Care, will check claims that plasma, testing positive to Hepatitis C, was used in the manufacture of blood products in 1990.
Senator Patterson asked her Department to investigate the claims when she became aware of the allegations made in the media on July 1.
Professor Barraclough will review the evidence and give an expert opinion on the material collected by the Department and report to the Minister.
"It is important that the community understands that the allegations relate to a period of several months in 1990, and they do not relate to blood transfusions," Senator Patterson said.
"Australia has one of the safest blood supplies in the world and our standards are in line with world best practice.
"In relation to hepatitis C, Australia has introduced new technologies to screen for the virus. Australia was one of the first countries to introduce a mass screening test for hepatitis C in 1990."
Senator Patterson said that the Department of Health and Ageing had undertaken a preliminary investigation of the claims about possible contamination of blood products from plasma, testing positive to Hepatitis C, for several months in 1990.
She had decided that the best way to ascertain and check the facts surrounding this issue was to appoint an independent expert.
Senator Patterson said although Departmental officials had not been directly involved in the decision-making processes at the time, it was important to ensure public confidence and accountability in investigating the claims.
"In order to take this issue forward, I have appointed Professor Barraclough, to provide me with an expert opinion on the preliminary advice from the Department," she said.
"I expect Professor Barraclough will be supported by experts in hepatitis C and he will consult with all appropriate parties, including the Australian Red Cross Blood Service and CSL Limited, and State and Territory health departments if necessary."
Professor Barraclough is expected to report to the Government by the end of this year.
Media Contact: Randal Markey, Media Adviser, 0417 694 520