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Speech at the opening of the Australian Red Cross Blood Service's New Victorian and Tasmanian Principal Site Melbourne

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Opening of the Australian Red Cross Blood Service’s New Victorian and Tasmanian Principal Site Melbourne, 30 April 2012

I would like to recognise the generous contribution of the more than 600,000 Australians who will give about 1.4 million blood donations to those in need this year.

Their generosity is greatly appreciated, as I’m sure you all agree. Providing fresh blood products is an essential service to the nation.

All governments are committed to ensuring a secure supply of blood to meet the clinical needs of Australian patients.

Under the national blood arrangements, Australian governments fully fund the Blood Service.

Today I also acknowledge the valuable contribution of the Australian Red Cross Blood Service.

It does a wonderful job collecting, processing and distributing blood and blood products for all Australians.

The Melbourne Processing Centre

We are here to witness another milestone in Blood Service activities.

I congratulate the Blood Service on the completion of this principal blood-manufacturing site for its Victorian and Tasmanian operations.

World-class health infrastructure such as this facility will allow our health care system to provide the highest level of services for our communities.

Australian governments have committed up to $213 million to the Blood Service to purchase, redevelop and fit-out this principal production and manufacturing site in Melbourne, and for ongoing costs for beyond the next 20 years.

This includes $120 million from the Australian Government’s Health and Hospitals Fund.

Health and Hospitals Fund

The $5 billion Health and Hospitals Fund was established in 2009 by the Australian Government as part of its broader nation-building infrastructure program.

It is guided by legislation under the Nation-building Funds Act 2008 and its objectives, while not replacing state and territory effort, are to: invest in major health infrastructure programs that will make significant progress towards achieving the Australian Government’s health reform targets; and

make strategic investments in the health system that will underpin major improvements in efficiency, access or outcomes of health care.

Four funding rounds of the HHF have been conducted, and this project was funded under Round One.

The Melbourne Processing Centre is a good example of collaboration between the Australian Government and state and territory governments and the non government sector.

This new centre is modular, flexible, expandable and can be scaled to meet blood service requirements for the next 20 to 30 years.

It will carry out all testing, processing, and distribution functions for the Blood Service in Victoria and Tasmania.

It contains the latest laboratory facilities and specialised equipment to ensure the safety and quality of all fresh blood products.

Other blood centres

This facility will be the largest processing site in Australia and will manufacture about 30 per cent of Australia’s national fresh blood supply.

And it is just the latest addition to the nation’s health infrastructure.

The Blood Service also has another four principal blood manufacturing facilities receiving blood from collection sites throughout Australia located in Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide and Perth.

As with other areas in the health sector, expenditure on blood and blood products is increasing annually and we do need to keep an eye on costs.

But I’m pleased to say that the centres are designed not only to ensure security and safety of blood supply, but to do so efficiently.

They operate in a way that provides value for money for all governments and the broader community.

The opening of this state-of-the-art centre is part of a program of capital initiatives being implemented by the Blood Service to ensure both security and safety of the blood supply.

Sixty-three per cent of the funding for these initiatives comes from the Australian Government and thirty-seven per cent from the states and territories.

Link with organ and tissue donation

I want to particularly mention the important connection between the role of this impressive centre, national bone marrow processes and another area of my responsibility, organ and tissue donation.

This new Centre provides transplantation services for the community that include:

Testing services for transplant patients and potential organ donors Scientific expertise in solid organ and bone marrow transplantation Recruitment and tissue typing for the Australian Bone Marrow Donor Registry.

The Australia Bone Marrow Donor Registry has 175,000 registered donors. Victoria accounts for over 30% or 55,000 of those.

The transplantation service and tissue typing in Victoria is more commonly know in the Victorian health sector as VTIS, the Victorian Tissue and Immunogenetics Service.

VTIS screens and types patients for the organ transplant sector.

From a national total of over 2,000 patients on the active waiting list for organ transplantation, about 400 are with VTIS.

VTIS type and test over 120 organ donors a year for DonateLife Victoria - which is the fastest growing organ donor service in Australia under the new Federal Organ Donor initiative.

In the bone marrow area, there are over 1,000 new patient searches each year in Australia, 500 for Australians and 500 for overseas patients.

Of this, VTIS Victoria conducts searches for about 270 patients a year.

VTIS recruits and types around 1,000 new bone marrow donors per annum of the national 5,000 recruited annually.

Blood Service

I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the achievements of the Blood Service, particularly in regard to:

nucleic acid testing for Hepatitis B in 2010-11; its work towards implementing a blood sample archive in 2012-13; implementing a new National Blood Management System in 2011; and various other efficiency programs to improve value for money.

I would also like to acknowledge the contribution the Blood Service is making to the National Blood Authority’s efforts to improve the safety and security of supply of blood and blood products for all Australians.

This will ensure the most appropriate use of donor blood and, I’m pleased to say, better outcomes for patients and the community.

The NBA is responsible for promoting safe, high quality management and use of blood products and services throughout the nation.

The NBA manages the relationship and contract with the Blood Service—as the sole supplier of fresh blood components in Australia—and is responsible for negotiating and managing the Deed of Agreement with the Australian Red Cross Society.

I’d like to encourage the Blood Service to continue develop its donor management programs and to make sure that the donors’ generous gift to the health sector is used in the best and most efficient way.

I applaud the fact that construction and fit-out of this important new health infrastructure project was completed on time and on budget.

This facility replaces one at Southbank that was no longer fit for purpose and I congratulate all those involved in the development—particularly those who conducted the significant negotiations in securing the site.

In conclusion, I’d like to emphasise that the Government sees building health infrastructure as a corner-stone to providing Australians with a health care system that will meet the needs of future generations.

The Government looks forward to continuing to work closely with the Blood Service in providing a world-class service to all Australians.

Therefore I have much pleasure in declaring open the Melbourne Processing Centre.