A SUPPORT group for women infected with hepatitis C as a result of receiving contaminated blood products will continue to receive interim payments pending the hearing of an action it is taking against the HSE over its funding, the High Court heard.
Positive Action, which represents women who received the blood products from the Irish Blood Transfusion Board, claims its public funding will be removed unless it signs a generic agreement with the HSE.
The organisation, which got €558,000 in public funds last year, is challenging the implementation of a decision last March by the HSE requiring it to enter into a standard service agreement used by the HSE for its financial relationships with non-statutory bodies.
The group says, if implemented, the decision will operate to deprive it of essential funding and also claims it is in breach of fair procedures irrational. It wants a declaration it is entitled to continued implementation of the agreement it had for the last few years.
The case was listed for hearing today in the High Court but did not get on because no judge was available to hear it for its scheduled two to three days.
Mr Justice Kevin Feeney said however he would be able to hear it as part of the Cork High Court list next February.
He set it down for hearing on February 27 but if a judge becomes available in Dublin in the meantime, it could be heard there, he said.
John Rogers SC, for Positive Action, said there was an urgency about the matter as the funding was about to be cut unless his clients signed the "generic type agreement" the HSE was seeking.
Garret Simons SC, for the HSE, said there is already specified interim funding in place for November and December and he was sure arrangements could be made to continue that pending the hearing of the case.
In its claim, Positive Action says that in 2008 the HSE first notified the group of its intention to introduce new governance/contractual arrangements for the grant aiding of all non-statutory or voluntary organisations through standard agreements.
It says it came to an arrangement with the HSE which safeguarded its unique role and function but was then told last March it would have to become part of the standard arrangement applying to all such groups as this was now national policy.
Positive Action claims there is not any new national policy and the HSE is relying on the same policy it had in 2008 when it first tried to make the group subject to the standard agreement.
Since the March decision, the HSE has only been paying for fixed costs/commitments of the group, Positive Action claims.