Saturday 21 September 2019

'I will continue to stand up and fight for the women of Ireland' - CervicalCheck campaigner vows to transform 'flawed healthcare system'

Lorraine Walsh, who received an incorrect smear test Photo: Brian Lawless/PA
Lorraine Walsh, who received an incorrect smear test Photo: Brian Lawless/PA

Mícheál Ó Scannáil

A cervical cancer advocate has said that she won't let anyone distract her from transforming Ireland's "flawed healthcare system".

Lorraine Walsh, a Patient Representative on the CervicalCheck Steering Committee, said that "no matter what office they hold", she will not let anyone distract her from improving the future of healthcare for the women of Ireland.

Ms Walsh penned an open letter after she clashed with the most senior Government health adviser in a series of newly released letters.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan accused Ms Walsh of making a “defamatory and untrue” statement after she allegedly criticised him over the controversy.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan from the Health Service Executive. Photo: Niall Carson/PA

In her letter, which was addressed to the Irish public and posted on Twitter, Ms Walsh said that she would not let anyone distract her from her role, which she said is all-consuming.

"This role is challenging and emotionally charged. I am consumed by it, I live and breath it morning, noon and night," she said.

"Fighting for answers and justice is somehow rewarding too and is helping me to come to terms with now knowing that my life could have been very different. I am passionate about it. My loss has driven me and this had become my vocation, but it's not easy.

"So what do you do when things get tough? Well cancer taught me to dig deep. When you stare down the barrel of cancer you discover new strengths and resilience which shifts the focus of your life forever."

"I'm not going to let anyone, no matter the office they hold, distract me from my work," she continued.

"This work is for the women of Ireland and that is more important than any one person or their position. This role is too vital to allow vested interests to derail me.

"I will continue to stand up and fight for the women of Ireland and their health and for respect for women. The women of Ireland deserve better, I deserve better."

The letter penned by Ms Walsh, addressed to the Irish public. Source: @LorcallWalsh on Twitter

Ms Walsh was one of 221 women and families who, it emerged last year, were not told about misreported smear tests. After being diagnosed with cervical cancer, she took up her position on the CervicalCheck screening commitee. Her letter comes after correspondence revealed under the Freedom of Information Act highlighted that Mr Holohan had warned Ms Walsh about criticising him as part of the scandal.

In a letter from the Department of Health sent on March 13 this year, Dr Holohan warned Ms Walsh that if any of her allegations are published, she should “anticipate a very strong response".

“You have also issued tweets in which you have made baseless allegations against me which are at variance with the facts.

“I would ask you to acknowledge by return this correspondence, withdraw allegations made in your tweets of yesterday, March 12, and that you refrain from making further baseless allegations in respect of me and my role.”

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