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Tuesday, 24 March 1987
Page: 1197

Senator RICHARDSON —I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Is the Minister aware of the disturbing progress of the Private Blood Bank of Australia, a private commercial blood bank, as reported in articles in the daily Press from about 5 March to 12 March 1987, wherein the company was said to have had a meteoric rise, fall and a subsequent investigation in an extremely short period? Is he aware that the New South Wales Department of Health and the Private Hospitals Association of New South Wales have refused to allow the Private Blood Bank to operate on both medical and commercial grounds? Does the Minister have any comment to make as to the desirability of private commercial blood banks, especially when the risks of contamination could never be assessed against financial gain?

Senator TATE —Yes, I am personally aware of recent Press reports and other reports I have seen on television concerning the financial fluctuations of the Private Blood Bank. For the rest of the answer, of course, I depend on a brief provided by the Department of Health. I understand that the New South Wales Department of Health has cleared the technical aspects of the operation of the blood bank, but has withdrawn permission for it to collect blood within the public hospitals in that State. The Australian Red Cross has offered to provide the same service as the Private Blood Bank at no cost. This will be readily available throughout the nation, and the Australian Red Cross has an enviable safety record, as honourable senators will be aware. If individuals wish to obtain an autologous blood service, the ARC will provide it at no cost. When the risk of acquired immune deficiency syndrome being transmitted via the blood supply was discovered, the Red Cross implemented stringent testing procedures of donors together with requesting persons at high risk of AIDS to refrain from donating blood. This has resulted in the safest blood supply technically possible in the world at present. In these circumstances, I am unable to see any benefit in the services provided by the Private Blood Bank, for which a charge is levied.