Wednesday 20 June 2018

CervicalCheck scandal victims dismayed at slow pace of support by HSE

Getting mixed messages: Stephen Teap and Vicky Phelan. Photo: PA
Getting mixed messages: Stephen Teap and Vicky Phelan. Photo: PA
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

The slow roll-out of the Government's package of supports for victims of the CervicalCheck scandal is causing further distress to women and families, it emerged yesterday.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Health Minister Simon Harris promised on May 12 that women who developed cancer after getting a wrong smear test result - and the families of those who died - would be given supports such as a medical card, travel expensives, childcare subidies and access to new medicines.

But Vicky Phelan, the Limerick mother of two who has terminal cancer, said medical cards "appear to be the only support in place for most, not all women".

She said many women had been told to produce receipts and some of the nurses and HSE liaison officers tasked with organising the supports were "telling women different things."

Stephen Teap, the Cork father who is rearing two young sons after losing his wife Irene to cervical cancer, said "lack of of communication among the HSE support team is the biggest problem."

Fianna Fáil spokesman on health Stephen Donnelly (inset) also revealed he was told that families were having to borrow money to travel to medical appointments.

Fianna Fáil spokesman on health Stephen Donnelly. Photo: Tom Burke
Fianna Fáil spokesman on health Stephen Donnelly. Photo: Tom Burke

"One of the 209 women affected by the CervicalCheck controversy will not meet a liaison officer to discuss what support services she needs for another two weeks," he added. The HSE was due to have appointed a central national co-ordinator to lead the response to the providing the packages.

Local liaison contacts have been appointed to link with the women and their families.

The latest blow to victims comes as a tough High Court defence strategy is being targeted at Emma Mhic Mhathúna, the mother of five who has terminal cancer.

Meanwhile, the HSE confirmed that one of the 209 who developed cancer after a wrong smear test result still cannot be found after a five-week search.

A spokeswoman said the HSE team was continuing to work full-time making every effort to contact the one remaining woman.

"While we do not routinely comment or refer to individual cases, we have already acknowledged that there are complexities involved in some of the cases over the past number of weeks."

They are also still sorting through the cases of cervical cancer which were notified by the National Cancer Registry to CervicalCheck since the scandal arose.

"The HSE is working with the National Cancer Registry of Ireland and the Department of Health to identify any other women who had cervical cancer during this time, who may also have had a CervicalCheck test," she said.

The HSE will conclude the matching process within the next week.

Calls

"We will then agree a communication process with the International Clinical Expert Review Panel for those women identified by the National Cancer Registry matching process.

"These will be the women who are found to have developed cancer after availing of CervicalCheck screening service."

A total of 22,447 calls have been answered by the HSE to date. But around 1,100 callbacks have still to be made.

The scoping inquiry into the scandal, led by Dr Gabriel Scally, is due to report by the end of June.

Subject to its findings, the Government said it was "committed to establishing a full commission of investigation".

This Scally inquiry has broad terms of reference and "will put particular focus on direct engagement with any woman affected, or her next-of-kin, who may wish to have an input".

The State is currently facing 29 legal actions brought by women against CervicalCheck and BreastCheck. Of these, 21 are against CervicalCheck.

Irish Independent

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