Tuesday 21 August 2018

CervicalCheck 'stalls in releasing records to victims of scandal'

Solicitor for Vicky Phelan urges action 'as a matter of urgency'

Vicky and Jim Phelan from Annacotty, Co Limerick, with their solicitor Cian O’Carroll (right). Photo: Collins Courts
Vicky and Jim Phelan from Annacotty, Co Limerick, with their solicitor Cian O’Carroll (right). Photo: Collins Courts
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

CervicalCheck has been accused of continuing to stall in releasing the medical records of women at the centre of the cancer scandal.

The charge is made in a strongly worded letter to the screening service from Cian O'Carroll, solicitor for Vicky Phelan, the mother of two from Co Limerick whose High Court case uncovered the scandal.

The women who are taking a case against CervicalCheck developed cervical cancer after getting an incorrect smear test result.

They are among 209 women who developed cervical cancer after a mistake was made in reading their test.

The letter states that the women have been urgently seeking the records for three weeks and it is clear "they are required on an urgent basis".

CervicalCheck said on May 14 the records would be made available but they have not been released.

"We expressed disappointment that an entire working week had passed without further information from your organisation," said the letter.

"We emphasised again that these cases were extremely urgent and that we needed to see progress from CervicalCheck in these matters.

"We also pointed out how assurances had been given in both public and private forums that patients are being facilitated with the release of their files from CervicalCheck but this was simply not the case and the failure to release records needed to be remedied as a matter of urgency."

CervicalCheck said the patient records required legal review and that they had to be signed off on and handed over last Monday.

"The files were not however received as promised on Monday - save for one urgent file in which the issuing of proceedings was already unnecessarily delayed."

He said the only records transferred so far are those relating to the three terminally ill women where proceedings have issued.

He also warned that neither CervicalCheck lawyers nor any other members of staff has any right to review or fillet any part the women's medical records prior to release of these documents.

The letter also pointed to the failure to give some of the women a copy of the review carried out by CervicalCheck confirming they received a wrong smear test result.

The CervicalCheck response was "unacceptable", he warned.

A spokeswoman for CervicalCheck told the Irish Independent that the HSE was committed to putting a protocol in place to allow for the immediate release of medical records and slides as requested.

"That protocol was put in place and a small team was established to support and deal with the requests from women and their legal representatives."

Since that time the HSE has also prioritised those requests for women with urgent court case deadlines pending.

"In addition, despite the huge increase in demand for medical records and materials since the CervicalCheck crisis emerged, the HSE is dealing with all these requests within the agreed timeframe.

"The HSE remains focused on supporting the women involved."

Meanwhile, the case of Emma Mhic Mhathúna, the mother of five who has terminal cervical cancer is to come before the court again today. A series of protests will be held around the country by concerned women this evening arising out of the scandal.

They are demanding open disclosure.

Irish Independent

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