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Hepatitis C victims angered by compensation limits

The Story

It's a scene not ordinarily observed at government news conferences: the federal minister of health leaving the room to chants of "Shame! Shame! Shame!" He's being heckled by victims of hepatitis C who have been left out of a joint compensation offer between the federal and provincial governments. Health Minister Allan Rock says the terms of the offer were determined by the most rational means possible, but for the victims in this CBC News report, that's not good enough. The offer would compensate people who contracted hepatitis C from tainted blood between 1986 and 1990. Spouses of these people, as well as spouses and children of victims of HIV-infected blood products, would also get a settlement. But at least 20,000 Canadians who contracted hepatitis C before 1986 or after 1990 will get nothing.

Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: March 27, 1998
Guest(s): Bill Decarie, David Harvie, Mike McCarthy, Clay Serby
Host: Alison Smith
Reporter: Adrienne Arsenault, Susan Harada
Duration: 5:51

Did You know?

• All hemophiliacs with hepatitis C were included in the federal-provincial offer, regardless of when they were infected. Otherwise, only hepatitis C patients who were infected between 1986 and 1990 were eligible.

• The rationale for this was that no test for hepatitis C existed before 1986, meaning no one could be held responsible. From 1986 to 1990, a test did exist but the Red Cross didn't use it to screen out donors with the virus. Screening for hepatitis C began in 1990.

• Under the plan, victims would get an initial $20,000 to $30,000, and more if they became very ill. In return, they waived their right to sue the government.

• The total amount offered was $1.1 billion - $800 million from the federal government and $300 million from the provinces.

• The other people included in the offer were the "secondarily infected." These were spouses and children who were infected with HIV or hepatitis C -- about 200 in total.

• In September 1998, Health Minister Allan Rock improved the offer for those infected before 1986 and after 1990. The deal -- "care, not cash" -- was worth $525 million. Some money was for prevention programs and implementation of recommendations in the Krever Report. About $50 million was earmarked for lookback and traceback efforts to find more victims of hepatitis C, and $300 million provided for additional care and drugs not covered by provincial health plans.

• The first government compensation for people infected through the blood supply was the Extraordinary Assistance Program introduced in 1989. Victims of HIV each received $30,000 per year for four years. In return, they had to waive their right to sue the federal government.

• The designers of the EAP expected most recipients would be dead within four years, but at the end of the program, over two-thirds -- about 650 people -- were still alive.

• The next offer for compensation came from the Nova Scotia government in 1993. It offered $30,000 annually to victims of HIV through blood products and their spouses. Drug expenses, post-secondary education for children, funeral expenses and a death benefit of $50,000 were also paid. Any Nova Scotian who had been eligible for the EAP also qualified for the program.

• The remaining provinces and territories hashed out a compensation package for all remaining victims several months later. Under the Multi-Provincial-Territorial Assistance Program, they would get $30,000 per year plus a $20,000 bonus upon signing up. Spouses would receive $20,000 and children $4,000 per year for four years after the death of a victim. In return, recipients could not sue the province, the Red Cross, or any of 18 insurance companies.


The Krever Report: Canada's Tainted Blood Disaster more