'This is unacceptable' - bereaved husband hits out at bid to cap cancer victims' costs
A widower whose wife died of cancer has said the capping of expenses to victims of the CervicalCheck scandal is "unacceptable".
Stephen Teap, a Cork father of two, lost his wife Irene to cervical cancer last July after she received two incorrect test results.
The Irish Independent reported earlier this week that the package, which promised to provide financial support for medical, travel, childcare and other expenses associated with cervical cancer, was being capped and would only apply from May 11 onwards.
It is being administered by the HSE but left to the Department of Health to deliver a decision on whether women who developed cervical cancer, or bereaved families, should be reimbursed for expenses prior to that date. Mr Teap said yesterday the capping "is unacceptable to myself and the 17 other bereaved families who are still paying off and coming to terms with our lost battle to cancer, forcing us to sue for retrospective costs".
The issue is expected to be raised today at a meeting of a steering committee made up of Department of Health and HSE officials, as well as patient representatives who include Mr Teap.
The steering committee meets on a weekly basis to oversee a range of immediate concerns which have arisen as a result of the scandal, as well as put changes in place to improve overall standards in CervicalCheck.
The HSE 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 is providing a range of health supports in response to requests for physiotherapy, occupational therapy, dental, ophthalmic and nursing services for people affected by the cervical cancer diagnosis.
However, speaking in the Dáil yesterday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar cast doubt on whether it was possible to claim for retrospective expenses prior to May 11. He said they could be included in a final legal settlement brought by claimants.
He also said the proposed review of 3,000 smear tests by external experts will now take around four months The review, led by the Royal College of Obstetricians in the UK, is already delayed. It will involve asking the consent of all 3,000 women.
Originally 209 women or bereaved families were identified as victims of the scandal where they developed cancer after getting incorrect smear test results.
Meanwhile, new figures show a difference in take-up rate of cervical screening offered by CervicalCheck in different counties.
Over the six years from 2011 to 2016, it ranged from 71pc in Laois to 91pc in Carlow.
Nine achieved a take-up rate of at least 80pc - the target set by CervicalCheck. These included Carlow, Cavan, Cork, Kildare, Louth, Wexford, Waterford, Westmeath and Wicklow.
It was highest among women in their thirties and forties but it dropped off among those in their fifties.
Uptake for breast screening under BreastCheck is higher than the OECD average of 60.8pc and stands above-target at 70pc.