Monday 23 September 2019

Varadkar scapegoats judges in cancer crisis blame game

Compensation cases must be managed better, says Taoiseach

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Photo: Frank McGrath
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar Photo: Frank McGrath

Shane Phelan, Tom Brady and Tim Healy

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has blamed the courts for delays meaning women could die before their cancer diagnosis cases are heard.

His remarks will be seen as an implicit criticism of the judiciary and the way they manage cases.

Mr Varadkar said cases in Ireland were taking "much more time" than in other jurisdictions and that this needed to be examined.

He was responding to comments by Mr Justice Kevin Cross, who called for more judges to be appointed as the High Court personal injuries list had been swamped with complex cases, including those related to the CervicalCheck controversy.

But Mr Varadkar hit back saying: "It's not just a case of appointing more judges, I think we need to manage cases better and improve in terms of case efficiency."

Mr Justice Kevin Cross, who presides over the personal injuries list, called earlier in the week for more judges to be appointed to deal with these types of cases.

He said the personal injuries list has been swamped with complex cases, including those related to the CervicalCheck controversy.

Without more judges on the bench, he did not know how they could get all the cases heard.

He warned that "great injustices will be caused" particularly for those victims "in extremis".

The judge was dealing with the case management for a woman suing in relation to CervicalCheck and whose health is failing.

Last July, in an update to TDs, the Dáil Public Accounts Committee was told there were 35 active legal cases.

The court heard yesterday the legal team for Ruth Morrissey (37), whose case was adjourned last July, is now seeking more discovery of documents from the defendant laboratories in the action.

Ms Morrissey is suing over the alleged misinterpretation of her cervical smears taken under the CervicalCheck screening programme in 2009 and 2012.

She and her husband Paul Morrissey, of Kylemore, Schoolhouse Road, Monaleen, Co Limerick, have sued the HSE and the US laboratory Quest Diagnostics Ireland Ltd, with offices at Sir John Rogerson's Quay, Dublin, along with Medlab Pathology Ltd, with offices at Sandyford Business Park, Dublin.

It is claimed that there was an alleged failure to correctly report and diagnose and there was an alleged misinterpretation of her smear samples taken in 2009 and 2012.

A situation allegedly developed where Ms Morrissey's cancer spread unidentified, unmonitored and untreated until she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in June 2014.

It is further claimed that a review of the 2009 and 2012 smears took place in 2014 and 2015 with the results sent to Ms Morrissey's treating gynaecologist in 2016.

But she was not told until May this year of those review results which showed her smears were reported incorrectly.

The HSE admitted it owed a duty of care to Ms Morrissey but not to her husband.

It also admits the results of her smear reviews should have been made known to Ms Morrissey.

The laboratories deny all claims.

Mr Justice Cross fixed next week to hear the discovery matter and full hearings will resume at the end of January.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section