Sunday 18 August 2019

We are 'tremendously vulnerable' - warn CervicalCheck victims

Vicky Phelan
Vicky Phelan
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Victims of the CervicalCheck scandal have asked for a face-to-face meeting with the judge overseeing their ex-gratia compensation scheme warning they are feeling "tremendously vulnerable".

The letter has been sent to Judge Aindrias Ó Caoimh by campaigners Vicky Phelan, Stephen Teap and Lorraine Walsh on behalf of the 221+ Patient Support Group.

The judge has been appointed to chair an expert panel that will formulate the ex-gratia scheme to compensate women who developed cervical cancer, and families of the bereaved, for not telling them that audits were carried out showing they received wrong test results.

In a strongly worded letter, seen by the Irish Independent, they said the "failure to provide smear test audit results in a timely manner" and the "very poor" implementation of the HSE's open disclosure process has, "for a lot of our members, eroded trust in our consultants, our health system, and our Government".

They stressed that "these are the very people we must continue to rely upon for our medical care".

"In many cases we rely on them to support life-and-death decisions. This concern for trust has left us feeling tremendously vulnerable.

"Unfortunately, the poor communication persists and notwithstanding the public and political attention to our circumstances, the women and families have often been the last to know about developments that directly affect them during the past year."

They have asked to meet Judge Ó Caoimh to share the experiences of women before the panel sets out the criteria to be assessed.

It is unclear what the level of compensation will be, although it has been speculated it would amount to around €25,000 each. The ex-gratia scheme is separate to a tribunal which is to be set up adjudicate on issues of alleged negligence as an alternative to going to court.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Simon Harris has said the delay in the return of cervical screening results, while undesirable, is not necessarily dangerous and poses a very low risk to women. He was responding amid ongoing concern at the delays of up to 33 weeks in returning test results to women who have undergone screening with CervicalCheck.

He told Fianna Fáil TD Michael Moynihan "the natural history of cervical cancer would indicate that the disease would normally develop over a period of 10 to 15 years".

A HSE spokeswoman said there are no plans to temporarily halt cervical screening to clear the backlog. The programme will continue as normal inviting women for their scheduled screening tests.

Irish Independent

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