Friday 21 September 2018

Doctor leading CervicalCheck inquiry expresses concern about running into 'some problems'

  • Doctor brought in to investigate the CervicalCheck scandal has expressed serious concerns about the 'fevered atmosphere'
  • Note written by Dr Gabriel Scally to Department of Health heard by Cabinet meeting
  • Doctor 'making progress' in setting up team - but ran into 'some problems'
  • Taoiseach tells the Dáil that more documents relating to the CervicalCheck scandal are to be published by the Department of Health this evening
Health Minister Simon Harris and HSE director general Tony O’Brien. Photo: Tom Burke
Health Minister Simon Harris and HSE director general Tony O’Brien. Photo: Tom Burke
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

THE doctor brought in to investigate the CervicalCheck scandal has expressed serious concerns about the "fevered atmosphere" in which he is operating, Independent.ie understands.

Today’s Cabinet meeting heard that Dr Gabriel Scally has written to the Department of Health to warn that he has already run into "some problems" with his scoping inquiry.

A note written by Dr Scally was shown to ministers as part of a tranche of documents brought to the meeting by Health Minister Simon Harris.

One minister told Independent.ie Dr Scally is concerned that key officials he needs to question as part of the inquiry are preoccupied preparing for public grilling by the Oireachtas Health Committee and Public Accountants Committee.

Officials from the HSE, CervicalCheck and Department of Health are due to appear before TDs at both committees later this week.

The note said the doctor was "making progress" in setting up his team and planning out the key lines of inquiry.

Dr Scally informs the Department’s Secretary General that he has "had the privilege of meeting and talking to some of those most affected, particularly Vicky Phelan".

But he adds: "I however would like to express concern that the current fevered atmosphere is posing some problems.

"It is apparent to me that some key individuals and organisations are being distracted by the necessity of preparing to appear before committees and answering questions on very specific aspects of the this substantial system failure that has led to such genuine concern and heartbreak."

Dr Scally says he needs "to gain the full attention and cooperation of the key individuals and their organisations".

The note concludes that he is doing his best "to deliver the best information, analysis and recommendations so that those most affected, the women and their families, can receive the clearest possible picture of what went wrong".

Meanwhile, more documents relating to the CervicalCheck scandal are to be published by the Department of Health this evening.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the Dáil that a trawl of more than 40 million emails and other documents has found “roughly a dozen” relevant to the current controversy.

“They confirm that there were no concerns about patient safety raised, no concerns about the ethicacy of the programme, no concerns about any particular labs,” Mr Varadkar said.

He added that no minister was ever made aware of the problems with screening audits.

Mr Varadkar said HSE and departmental officials “wrongly assumed” that women were being told that smear tests had missed potential abnormalities that could have led to an earlier cancer diagnosis.

He said the memos released to date did show an “absence of concern for patients”.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the memos pointed to “containment and concealment”.

He said there had been “an absence of political leadership” in the Department of Health since the controversy broke.

“People are saddened, they are angry, in some instances confused in terms of the entire scandal itself,” he said.

Independents4Change Clare Daly made an impassioned speech attacking the Government, other Opposition politicians and the media.

She said governments “are too busy staying in power to govern” and the Opposition are “too busy scoring political points”.

Ms Daly added that the “media are too bloody lazy to analysis what goes on in here”.

She called for mandatory disclosure to be introduced and a proper redress scheme put in place so as to “take the lawyers out of the hospitals”.

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