Thursday 15 November 2018

'I hope some people will eat humble pie' - Vicky Phelan on the Scally report

CervicalCheck scandal victim Vicky Phelan. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
CervicalCheck scandal victim Vicky Phelan. Photo: Colin O'Riordan

Fiona Dillon and Eilish O'Regan

Vicky Phelan, who exposed the cervical cancer scandal, said she was “vindicated” following the publication of the Scally report.

The Limerick mother of two pointed out that she only ever said that screening saves lives.

“That never changed,” she said.

She added that she had only ever said she had an issue with the way CervicalCheck was run. “I am vindicated today, thank God is all I can say, so I’m hoping some people will eat humble pie.”

Meanwhile, she is responding well to treatment, saying:

“I don’t think I am on borrowed time any more.”

Preview: Vicky Phelan was given a look at Dr Scally’s report. Photo: Collins
Preview: Vicky Phelan was given a look at Dr Scally’s report. Photo: Collins

Ms Phelan said the treatment she was on, Pembrolizumab, was working: “It’s as simple as that.”

She was having an infusion of the drug yesterday while Dr Scally launched his report.

“I have had over 50pc shrinkage and I am due another scan next week, actually,” said Ms Phelan. She revealed that people are contacting her from all over the country trying to get on to the drug.

Ms Phelan said one thing she liked about Dr Scally from the outset was he had a sense of social justice and fairness.

“He saw clearly straight away that women had been very badly treated and that was the thread throughout the whole report.”

Mother-of-five Emma Mhic Mhathúna, who is fighting advanced cervical cancer and has been in hospital for 10 days, received a copy of the report by email.

Speaking about the report to Newstalk’s Pat Kenny from her hospital bed, she said: “I’m not expecting anything good to come of it.”

She said she would not be doing any further interviews because she had difficulty breathing.

Stephen Teap, a Cork father of two who lost his wife Irene to cervical cancer, said huge pain had been inflicted on women and their families.

He welcomed the report’s 50 recommendations which provided potential solutions to the major failings highlighted in CervicalCheck.

He agreed that some doctors had a “God complex” and the current system of coming clean about errors to patients was an “utter joke”.

“The core of it all must be patient safety,” he said, adding the culture of “protect, deny and silence” had to end.

“We expect the Government to implement this without delay in order for us to improve the standards of the cervical screening programme and bring it to a level that all of the women of Ireland and their families can trust and rely on.

“There is still a lot more work to be done in going into more detail around the failings of the system and who is, and was, at fault,” said Mr Teap.

“Whatever route is taken after this, either a commission of investigation or an inquiry, it cannot impact or delay the implementation of these very, very critical recommendations,” he said.

Lorraine Walsh, a cervical cancer survivor who is one of the 221 women at the centre of the scandal, said Dr Scally’s findings were “distressing and upsetting”.

She pointed in particular to the report showing the emphasis placed on cost in outsourcing the screening to labs in the US.

She also stressed the importance of women continuing to be tested and said it saves lives.

Dr Scally is expected to arrange further meetings with other women in the group of 221 and bereaved families to brief them.

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