Wednesday 19 June 2019

Terminally ill smear test victim accuses health officials over scandal

Vicky Phelan has addressed the Oireachtas public accounts committee on the issue.

Vicky Phelan arrives to give evidence to the Public Accounts Committee (Brian Lawless/PA)
Vicky Phelan arrives to give evidence to the Public Accounts Committee (Brian Lawless/PA)

By Michelle Devane, Press Association

A terminally-ill mother has accused health officials of drip feeding information about the cervical cancer controversy to “water down the effect of a cover up”.

Vicky Phelan tweeted: “This has been the gameplan since the #Cervical Check scandal broke. Drip feed inflammatory documents fo try to water down the effect of the cover up.”

She commented after an Oireachtas committee looking into the failure to inform patients of wrongly interpreted smear test results had to adjourn for an hour before its planned sitting to review new documents from the HSE and the Department of Health.

TDs who were due to ask health officials questions complained of the late arrival of the documents.

Ms Phelan, 43, from Co Limerick, is one of the women who was not informed that her smear test results had been wrongly interpreted.

Stephen Teap and Vicky Phelan (Brian Lawless/PA)

She addressed the public accounts committee on Wednesday evening alongside a widowed father Stephen Teap whose wife, Irene, died never knowing two smear tests had been inaccurately read.

HSE interim boss John Connaghan told the committee he had listened to the words of the many brave individuals who have spoke publicly about their stories over the past number of weeks including Ms Phelan and Mr Teap.

“I want to ensure them that I’m listening, and I’m listening intently,” he said.

He said he wanted to reassure Vicky Phelan and other families and the women of Ireland that changes would be made.

“I’m determined that we will take on board all of the lessons that are learned from this unacceptable chain of events,” he said.

Mr Connaghan added: “If there is a requirement to hold individuals to account on a personal basis we will do so.”

He reiterated the apology he made on Wednesday for the alarm which has been created in relation to the cervical check programme caused by the failure to communicate with the women affected.

Earlier this month it emerged that an audit by the Cervical Check screening programme of 1,482 women diagnosed with cervical cancer since 2008 had found potential errors in earlier smear tests in 209 of the cases, with results showing no abnormalities when they should have flagged a cancer warning.

Of the 209 women, 18 have since died.

Tony O’Brien resigned over the crisis (Niall Carson/PA)

The crisis has already seen the boss of the HSE Tony O’Brien resign.

Press Association

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