Monday 25 March 2019

Health Minister accused of trying to destroy reputation of those who built CervicalCheck system

Health Minister Simon Harris (Niall Carson/PA)
Health Minister Simon Harris (Niall Carson/PA)
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

HEALTH Minister Simon Harris has been accused of attempting to destroy the reputation of people who built up the CervicalCheck system.

Ahead of a motion of no confidence in the Dáil, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin claimed the minister gave a “cavalier dismissal” of the team during a radio interview on Saturday.

He said people had done “exceptional work over a decade in building up CervicalCheck and saving lives” – but Mr Harris “chose to launch an attack” on them.

Mr Martin also blamed a decision by the minister to extend a free out-of-cycle smear test to women at the height of the CervicalCheck controversy last year for massive backlogs now being experienced.

Around 90,000 women availed of the free re-test. As result the average waiting time for results has risen from dramatically, with some people waiting 27 weeks.

“The reason the new HPV test is not deliverable is because of the backlog,” the Fianna Fáil leader said.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the test would be launched “as soon as possible” but could not provide a timeline.

He said the decision to offer a free smear test was backed by the Chief Medical Officer and had been called for by some opposition TDs.

“It has caused problems. There is a backlog. The HSE is working very hard now to try clear that backlog,” he said.

Mr Varadkar acknowledged that he people “who built Cervical Check did a good job”.

“Those who built it and managed it did a good job and saved a lot of lives,” he said.

However the Taoiseach added: “But they also made a lot of mistakes too. Among the mistakes they made was to carry out a botched audit. They did not share the information about that audit with the women affected. Yes, they did do a good job but they also did something very wrong.”

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