Tuesday 22 May 2018

Doctors' objections known long before case

The meeting heard a number of doctors were upset about having
the onus put on them to tell patients about their individual reviews
carried out by CervicalCheck. The reviews found they had been
wrongly given the all-clear in their last smear test result. Stock image
The meeting heard a number of doctors were upset about having the onus put on them to tell patients about their individual reviews carried out by CervicalCheck. The reviews found they had been wrongly given the all-clear in their last smear test result. Stock image
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

CervicalCheck was warned six months before the recent Vicky Phelan court case that doctors were objecting to having to inform patients with cervical cancer that they were the victim of a smear test mistake.

A meeting in September 2017 attended by Dr Gráinne Flannelly, the former clinical director of CervicalCheck, was told of their resistance, the Public Accounts Committee was told yesterday.

The meeting heard a number of doctors were upset about having the onus put on them to tell patients about their individual reviews carried out by CervicalCheck. The reviews found they had been wrongly given the all-clear in their last smear test result.

They also claimed that "in the absence of clarity" doctors were put at a disadvantage when deciding who among the patients should and should not be offered a face-to-face meeting.

The latest revelation was made in the Public Accounts Committee yesterday where senior Department of Health, HSE and CervicalCheck officials insisted they were unaware of the failure to pass on the reviews to the women or their relatives in cases where they were deceased.

The reviews were given to treating doctors to give to the women from mid-2016, but it was revealed two weeks ago 162 of the 209 cancer patients were never told about them.

Labour TD Alan Kelly, who sought the documentation, said it was clear CervicalCheck was alerted to the failure to tell the women long before the April High Court case brought by Ms Phelan, the mother-of-two who now has terminal cancer.

HSE director of health and wellbeing Dr Stephanie O'Keeffe insisted she received monthly reports from CervicalCheck saying the process of telling the women was going well.

Members of the committee, however, repeatedly questioned her on why she did not actively seek out evidence to support this and avoid the trauma now endured by women with cervical cancer and the relatives of those have died.

John Gleeson, manager of CervicalCheck, in response to questions said he was not "certain" if it was his responsibility to track the whereabouts of the reports.

Ms O'Keeffe brought the issue of reviews to the attention of former HSE chief Tony O'Brien.

But neither the Health Minister Simon Harris nor secretary general of the Department of Health Jim Breslin were informed by chief medical officer Tony Holohan. Mr Breslin admitted that despite the hurt and confusion of recent weeks, Mr Harris has not introduced any new protocols to ensure lessons have been learned. It also emerged draft press releases were drawn up by CervicalCheck in early 2016 in the event of the review reports going public. In another twist, it emerged a senior member of the HSE press office was involved but did not inform her boss, HSE director of communications.

Irish Independent

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