Saturday 25 May 2019

Another 'dent in confidence' amid 17 more cervical cancer claims

‘Further deficiencies’: Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell. Photo: Damien Eagers
‘Further deficiencies’: Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell. Photo: Damien Eagers
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Seventeen additional legal actions over cervical cancer have been revealed in what has been described as another "dent in confidence" in the health system.

Details of the cases emerged at the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee (PAC). They are separate to the 40 claims relating to the CervicalCheck screening service.

The cases are said to relate to instances of alleged cervical cancer misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis occurring in hospitals.

It means, overall, 57 claims relating to cervical cancer have been revealed since Vicky Phelan's case at the end of April.

The controversy over the CervicalCheck service began when mother-of-two Ms Phelan was awarded €2.5m in a High Court settlement with a US lab over an incorrect smear test result.

The PAC has been examining the scandal for months and the emergence of these 17 cases unrelated to CervicalCheck has led to fears that there are problems elsewhere in the system.

Labour TD Alan Kelly demanded that the State Claims Agency (SCA) provide the committee with a breakdown of the types of issues raised in these cases. SCA director Ciarán Breen said it would take three weeks to provide the information to the PAC on the nature of each complaint.

But he said that in general they were claims that would be found in a "hospital environment".

He gave the example of a colposcopy test not being properly reported or instances of a delay in diagnosis of cervical cancer.

Fine Gael TD Kate O'Connell raised concern that there may be "further deficiencies" in the testing system. She said there had been a further "dent in confidence" and another "wallop to the system".

Mr Breen gave details in the cases in response to questions from Sinn Féin TD Jonathan O'Brien. The SCA boss said that there were 17 cases relating to "non-screening services" and cervical cancer misdiagnosis.This breaks down as 12 active claims, four closed claims and one potential claim.

Of the 40 claims relating to CervicalCheck, 35 are active, three have been settled and there are two potential claims.

Mr Kelly said many of the revelations in the controversy had emerged at Oireachtas committees and he said it was a "serious worry" that they won't be sitting over the next couple of months during the summer recess.

Earlier, PAC chairman Seán Fleming raised concern over delays in the independent review of around 3,000 cervical smear test slides.

Consent must be secured from each of the women before the review being carried out by Britain's Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists can be completed. Mr Fleming said this was "going to add months to the process".

Health Minister Simon Harris was asked about the delay by reporters. He said the CervicalCheck scandal happened because there wasn't engagement with women and people knew details of their healthcare and didn't share it with them.

"I think it's right and proper that not only do we do this as quickly as we can, but we also do it right," he said.

Mr Harris said the review was expected to take around four or five months.

Irish Independent

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