Saturday 22 September 2018

Government puts cap on expenses payouts to victims of cancer scandal

Health Minister Simon Harris (pictured) and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar made the decision to set up the expenses scheme. Photo: Mark Condren
Health Minister Simon Harris (pictured) and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar made the decision to set up the expenses scheme. Photo: Mark Condren
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Women and bereaved families who are the victims of the CervicalCheck scandal are having their expenses package promised by the Government capped, it emerged yesterday.

The Department of Health has imposed a cut-off date of last May 11 for reimbursement of expenses covering outgoings related to developing cervical cancer after being given an incorrect smear result from CervicalCheck.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Health Minister Simon Harris made a decision to set up the expenses scheme to support women and bereaved families on May 11.

However, many of the victims are understood to be dismayed that a timeline is now being imposed after they have undergone considerable financial strain, including loss of earnings in several cases.

For a significant number their biggest financial outlays - such as medical bills, travel and childcare - may have been incurred before that time.

However, the knock-on financial pressures of the increased costs may still be affecting family budgets.

The HSE is understood to be administering the scheme well after initial teething issues, but the directive about the time limits has come from the Department of Health.

Asked to explain the time limits, a spokeswoman for the HSE told the Irish Independent that the Government made a decision to provide a package of supports to those women and their families affected by the cervical screening issues on May 11.

"On that basis, the HSE immediately put in place arrangements to implement the Government decision from that date," she said.

"Where requests have been received from those affected in relation to expenses that pre-date the Government decision of May 11, those requests have been brought to the attention of the Department of Health for advice."

The HSE said that it had issued 445 discretionary medical cards in relation to the expenses scheme. There were 87 of those involved who already had medical cards.

Meanwhile, leading specialists warned yesterday that more investment would be needed in health services to cope with the extra demands which will follow the upgrading of cervical screening in CervicalCheck labs.

A seminar organised by the Irish Cancer Society was told the potential to pick up abnormalities in smears will be greatly improved once HPV testing is introduced in labs used by CervicalCheck.

Dr Cliona Murphy, of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: "Primary HPV testing won't be perfect.

"Like the current smear test, not all abnormalities will be spotted before they become cancerous, but international studies show that HPV testing can find more pre-cancers and increase detection to about four in five cervical abnormalities, compared to three in five that are found through the current smear test system."

Adequate resources must be provided to deal with the increased demand for treatments which will follow, she said.

Irish Independent

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