Friday 20 September 2019

Harris to recruit external expert to probe débâcle

Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: Frank McGrath
Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: Frank McGrath
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

An expert from outside of Ireland is to be recruited to conduct a preliminary investigation into the cervical cancer scandal.

The 'scoping exercise' will be expected to provide answers to many of the questions raised in recent days by the end of June.

Health Minister Simon Harris met with Opposition TDs last night to agree a path forward. Sources who attended the meeting said there was broad agreement that the priority is to get quick answer to a list of key questions. While the option of establishing a full-blown Commission of Investigation remains on the table, it will not be invoked until after the initial process is completed.

The minister is to spend the coming days recruiting a suitable expert from outside of Ireland and will bring detailed proposals to Cabinet next Tuesday.

A source said: "The scoping exercise will be different from previous ones of this kind. It's objective will be to provide initial answers. It can also recommend terms of reference for a commission of investigation if this is viewed as necessary."

Two clinical reviews which are already underway will be feed into the inquiry.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said in the Dáil yesterday that the "most effective route to restoring confidence is for a competent, comprehensive inquiry that will get to the truth".

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar admitted there are "limitations to a Hiqa inquiry. "There are problems also with a commission of inquiry and what we know what they are as well."

The Labour Party has been particularly critical of the Hiqa approach originally proposed. They argued that it would not have the ability to take sworn evidence or the capacity to cross-examine personnel.

However, Mr Varadkar has expressed concerned that a commission would be a much more cumbersome and lengthy process as individuals were likely to hire legal representatives.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that women who suffered a delayed cancer diagnosis will have to wait until after the investigation to receive redress from the State.

Mr Varadkar said that the Government will look at "a scheme of redress for women whose cancer was missed and should have been detected beyond normal error and for women where there was a breach of duty to inform them of the audit results". But he indicated that compensation would not be paid out until all facts have been established.

Irish Independent

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