Health Minister Robin Swann quizzed over contaminated blood scandal funding
The Health Minister was yesterday urged to release funding ring-fenced for those infected and affected by the contaminated blood scandal.
Robin Swann was questioned on the issue during a meeting at Castle Buildings with the Friends and Families of Haemophilia NI group, who claim around £400,000 of recent funding had been held back.
During the meeting, Paul Kirkpatrick and Conan McIlwrath, acted as co-chairs for the group.
Mr Kirkpatrick, from Derry, has Hepatitis C stage one as a result of infected blood products given to him in childhood while Mr McIlwrath, from Larne, has haemophilia and, as a result of contaminated blood given to him as a child, has contracted Hepatitis C stage one.
An estimated 5,000 people around the UK were infected by contaminated blood products, in what has been described as the "worst scandal in the history of the NHS".
The scandal resulted in people who had haemophilia being treated with blood infected with hepatitis C or HIV in the 1970s and 1980s.
A public inquiry into the infected blood scandal began last year.
Speaking after the meeting yesterday, Paul Kirkpatrick said he hoped the minister had "got an understanding" of how big an issue the contaminated blood scandal is.
"We spent the majority of the meeting telling our stories. It was a very emotional meeting," he said.
"We hope he got an understanding that this is the biggest scandal in the NHS and there is a small number of people in Northern Ireland who are becoming increasingly impacted by the lack of action by government".
Mr Kirkpatrick said the group asked Mr Swann why £400,000 of funding had not yet been allocated.
"The Department of Finance allocated £1 million for victims of the contaminated blood scandal. For some reason, the Department of Health held back £400,000.
"We hope in the next few weeks he will come back and show us the options for the long term and release the money immediately to the intended beneficiaries".
Sinn Féin assembly member Martina Anderson, who accompanied the families to the meeting, said the Health Minister and his department "should be doing everything possible to alleviate the suffering of those affected by contaminated blood and to ensure they are properly supported.
"However, by delaying vital financial assistance, the minister is only adding to their suffering and that needs to stop," she said.