Monday 21 January 2019

More questions raised as tragic healthcare fiasco unfolds

Dr Gabriel Scally. Picture: Mark Condren
Dr Gabriel Scally. Picture: Mark Condren
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

What has happened since the scandal first emerged in April? A court case involving Vicky Phelan was heard in the High Court in April which sparked a series of damning revelations about the CervicalCheck programme. Some 221 women went on to develop cervical cancer after their smear test was misread.

Their smears were then audited but the results of that audit were kept from them. The scandal has sparked several resignations, shaken people's trust in the health system and heaped pressure on Leo Varadkar's Government to answer a long list of questions as to how and why this happened.

What has the Government response been?

The Government has adopted a multi-pronged approach to the scandal and was this week accused by a widower of a woman affected by the scandal of being "reactive". The State has pledged to carry out a number of short-term inquiries and has committed to holding a commission of inquiry in public.

What is the Scally Inquiry?

Dr Gabriel Scally, a UK expert, has been tasked with leading an initial scoping exercise into the scandal. That report is expected to be completed by September 1 and Dr Scally has already published two interim reports. The report was due to be published in June but it was delayed following delays in the doctor getting sufficient access to documents from the HSE. Following an intervention from Health Minister Simon Harris and Mr Varadkar, who warned that anyone not co-operating was effectively blocking the Government, documents began to flow more efficiently. Dr Scally has also interviewed those affected.

Isn't there another audit?

A review of some 3,000 smears is also to be led by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, who will try to identify the genuine false negatives and those cases which should have been reported differently. It is expected that this audit will take up to six months despite initial assurances that it would be completed by the end of May.

It emerged this week that consent forms have not yet been issued to all women involved in order for the review to begin. In the past three months there have also been ongoing discussions in the Department of Health and the Royal College about methodology and terms of reference for the review of smear-test results.

What was announced this week?

The Government announced this week that Justice Charles Meenan has been appointed to examine alternative resolution methods to adversarial court proceedings for the women affected. The Taoiseach was also forced to clarify a commitment that no woman affected would have to go to court.

Irish Independent

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