Thursday 23 May 2019

'A whitewash' - Women and families 'heartbroken' by latest CervicalCheck 'betrayal' by Government

  • Vicky Phelan called the situation a "whitewash" as she vowed to fight back
  • Widower of Irene Teap accuses Government of betrayal over Scally inquiry leak
Vicky Phelan’s court case in April started the search for victims
Vicky Phelan’s court case in April started the search for victims

Eilish O'Regan and Kathy Armstrong

WOMEN and families of victims of the CervicalCheck scandal have reacted with anger after the leaking to media of parts of a report into the affair.

Parts of the 200-page scoping report by Dr Gabriel Scally have been leaked ahead of the publication of the report tomorrow - including a finding that he does not believe there is a need to hold a Commission of Investigation to find out truth of what happened.

Stephen Teap, whose wife Irene died of cervical cancer after getting wrong test results, said victims who were due to receive a briefing on the Scally report tomorrow feel betrayed by the leak.

He directed his anger at Health Minister Simon Harris and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Stephen Teap and his wife Irene with their sons Noah and Oscar, pictured on Christmas Eve 2016 – just months before she died
Stephen Teap and his wife Irene with their sons Noah and Oscar, pictured on Christmas Eve 2016 – just months before she died
Stephen Teap and Vicky Phelan. Photo: PA
Irene Teap and husband Stephen try on wigs after her hair fell out

Mr Teap said in a post on Twitter: "Heartbroken this morning at the disrespect shown towards the women and families in this scandal by Government @SimonHarrisTD and @campaignforleo leaking this report before the families find out, very upsetting waking up to this."

Dr Gabriel Scally is now set to brief Vicky Phelan, whose High Court case first revealed the scandal, and Mr Teap today.

It is the latest mishandling of the scandal to impact on the Government.

It has been reported that review chair Dr Scally has concluded he has found out everything that needed to be uncovered into the CervicalCheck scandal, which saw 221 women with cervical cancer not informed that smear test results showing them to be clear were inaccurate, and that revised test results kept from them.

Dr Gabriel Scally. Picture: Mark Condren
Dr Gabriel Scally. Picture: Mark Condren

It is understood that Dr Scally briefed Mr Harris on Monday on his review's findings. A 200-page report is expected to be published on Wednesday.

Ms Phelan called the situation a "whitewash" as she claimed that information is still being withheld from women.

She said on Twitter: "I am late to the table with my reaction for 2 reasons. Lest you all forget, I am still an ill woman battling cancer.

"The FIRST morning I decide to take a lie in to prepare myself for the gruelling week of interviews ahead and what do I wake up to - a whitewash.

"Today was the day I had set aside to pick up my kids from school and spend some time with them. That is now NOT going to happen.

"I find myself in the same position as I did a few months ago when I found out that I had not been informed about my own health.

"Information continues to be withheld from women and I will continue to fight back."

There have been criticisms from the affected women and their families after the report was leaked before they could read it.

Mr Harris has described the leak as "extremely regrettable", adding that it should not have happened.

Mr Harris denied he was behind the leak.

The Health Minister said that he still intends to set up a commission into the scandal.

Speaking on Morning Ireland on RTE Radio One, he said: "What I intend to do is let the report be published, let Dr Scally speak... meet with the Opposition, meet with some of those affected and impacted by this terrible debacle, and then decide whether people feel there is need for one.

"But absolutely if there is a feeling that there is a need for one that will be the case.

"The only people who can change that decision are the Government and the Oireachtas, but obviously if a very eminent expert has been asked to look at this area and has made a view I think its important that we at least let the report be published and consider why he arrived at that point."

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has expressed confidence in Health Minister Simon Harris and said an inquiry will be held to determine the source of the leaked information about the Scally report into the CervicalCheck scandal but warned such investigations rarely find the source of the leak.

The Taoiseach said: "I'm disgusted that some of the information has leaked this is not a normal story, this is not some sort of scoop.

"This is a very sensitive issue of one which affects women who are very ill and families who are grieving," he said.

He rejected allegations levelled by the opposition that the Government had orchestrated the "callous" leak.

Asked what he planned to do about the leak he said he is "not sure what we can do about it".

Plans to brief those affected have been moved up a day ahead of the report going to Cabinet tomorrow.

Meanwhile he rejected allegations levelled by the opposition that the Government had orchestrated the "callous" leak.

Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin has criticised the leak of aspects of the Scally report on the cervical cancer scandal and claimed the government has “mis-managed” the issue from the start.

Speaking to reporters at his party’s think-in meeting Mr Martin branded the leak as “cynical and cruel behaviour” and that the victims of the scandal should  have seen the results first.

He questioned how it happened and suggested it could be more of the “spin, spin, spin focus of this government”.

He suggested that the government may not want a Commission of Investigation and claimed this could be a motivation for the leak.

He said he didn’t know if this was the case but asked if Mr Harris could publicly say who in government had read the report.

Mr Martin said he wants to read the report himself before coming to a conclusion on whether or not there should be a Commission of Investigation.

He also hit out at the government, arguing: “I think what we’re witnessing here is evidence of a scandal that has been mismanaged from the get-go by the minister and the government.

“They said things in the immediate aftermath of the [scandal] breaking…

“They said anything that would get them out of what they perceived to be political embarrassment, trouble or whatever.

“They said things like 'we will give indemnity in the courts' to such an extent that the entire cervical cancer screening programme could be in jeopardy.”

Mr Martin claimed: “From the moment minister Harris was briefed by officials I think he got this wrong in terms of managing it and dealing with it in a comprehensive, professional way.”

Labour TD Alan Kelly also said he was “disgusted” and “shocked” at the leak that recommendation that no commission of investigation was needed.

Mr Kelly said the leaking of the report was “the worst example I have seen of a government trying to control the message by getting something like this out there,” he told Morning Ireland.

Q4PR, the private public relations company is providing communications support to Dr Scally and his team during the process.

The report, which runs for 200 pages, has 50 recommendations.

But it is non statutory and holds no individual to account.

The CervicalCheck scandal involved 221 women who developed cervical cancer after getting wrong smear test results.

Nineteen of the women have died and others are terminally ill.

CervicalCheck carried out internal audits confirming the wrong test results but most of the audits were not disclosed to victims until last May after the Phelan expose.

Ms Phelan will be briefed along with Mr Teap and a number of other women and their families by Mr Harris before the Scally report will be published in full.

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