Thursday 14 November 2019

CervicalCheck faces flood of legal cases as new tribunal nears

Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

CervicalCheck is facing a flood of legal cases for alleged negligence in cervical screening with 125 claims lodged so far, it emerged yesterday.

Only eight of the claims have been settled since the scandal of non-disclosure first emerged in April last year.

It revealed the failure to notify the majority of 221 women who developed cancer or their next of kin that an audit showing they received the wrong smear test result was carried out.

The figures show €1.49m in legal costs have so far been paid out.

These legal costs include fees paid to mediation services.

Meanwhile, the Irish Independent has learned that there are plans to have the State tribunal, which is an alternative to court for women and families bringing cases, up and running by early next year. The tribunal will sit in private and the same level of proof as in the High Court will be required.

A spokeswoman said the legislation necessary to establish the CervicalCheck tribunal passed through the Oireachtas and was signed into law in July.

"The tribunal, once established, will be open to individuals who are part of the '221' group, along with individuals who are identified during the independent expert panel review currently being undertaken by the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in the UK, where this review presents findings discordant with those of the original cytology examination," said the spokeswoman.

She said that suitable premises for the tribunal had been identified in the Infinity Building in Smithfield.

The Office of Public Works has advised "that their target is to hand over the premises by the end of the year. The premises will be fitted out to include three hearing rooms, private consultation and meeting rooms and comfortable rest rooms for use by the claimants and their families during breaks in hearings".

Some 161 women or next of kin have so far been granted payments of €20,000 under the ex-gratia scheme set up in recent months.

Health Minister Simon Harris told Fianna Fáil TD Michael McGrath in a parliamentary reply that since 2008 when CervicalCheck was set up some 1,200 invasive cancers have been detected through screening.

He said the scoping inquiry of Dr Gabriel Scally was "satisfied with the quality management processes in the labs contracted by CervicalCheck".

Mr Harris said the report showed no evidence of discordant smear reporting falling outside what is expected.

Irish Independent

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