Saturday 25 May 2019

Vicky Phelan one year on: 'Delays in cervical screening process unacceptable'

CONTROVERSY: Vicky Phelan’s case sparked outrage. Picture: Damien Eagers
CONTROVERSY: Vicky Phelan’s case sparked outrage. Picture: Damien Eagers
The case of Vicky Phelan triggered the cervical smear test controversy (Brian Lawless/PA)
Vicky Phelan. Photo: Fergal Philips
Amy Molloy

Amy Molloy

One year after she was awarded €2.5m in a High Court action over the alleged misreading of her cervical cancer smear, Vicky Phelan has slammed delays in the screening process as "unacceptable".

Ms Phelan - who recently took a step back from campaigning to concentrate on her health - said she has been through a "rough few weeks" but is feeling good again.

The Limerick woman said Ireland has a very poor record of dealing with women's issues and aims to keep fighting until that improves.

Speaking to RTÉ's Today with Miriam O'Callaghan, Ms Phelan reflected on all that has happened over the last year - and what still hasn't changed.

She praised the decision by Health Minister Simon Harris to last year offer repeat smear tests but criticised the lack of resources on offer.

"I've always said I thought it was the right decision at the time because women were terrified," she said.

"The problem was it wasn't backed up with resources so they didn't have the capacity, we've been told there is no capacity and that is why there is this delay, which is unacceptable."

Ms Phelan was also critical of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in an interview with the Irish Times today, but apologised to the Fine Gael leader, saying he isn't solely to blame.

"I'm critical of the government in general. Some of what I said was taken out of context and I would like to apologise to the Taoiseach for the comment in today's article," she said.

"What I said, I was trying to make the point that the issues faced by the women and their families are wide-ranging. They involve input from a wide range of players, the HSE, the Department of Health, the medical and legal professions and the Attorney General's office.

"Any unwillingness on the part of one player can hold everything up and that's what's happened over the last number of months."

Ms Phelan made a statement on the steps of the Four Courts on April 25 last year after her case was settled.

She said she never expected to become a celebrity, but is glad she has encouraged other women to go for smear tests and stand up for themselves.

"Screening saves lives and the cervical screening programme - while it has its faults - it has saved thousands of lives.

"Ayear later, I still feel very uncomfortable with a lot of all this. I never wanted to be a celebrity or in the papers or have people come up and recognise me. But it's lovely.

"It's for people I'm doing this. I'm not doing this for plaudits or awards."

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