Tuesday 20 November 2018

'Women are fed up' - Health Minister faces calls for further inquiry into CervicalCheck scandal

Minister for Health Simon Harris faced calls in the Dail on Wednesday for a further inquiry into the CervicalCheck scandal

Ireland’s Health Minister Simon Harris (Niall Carson/PA)
Ireland’s Health Minister Simon Harris (Niall Carson/PA)
Simon Harris and Leo Varadkar
Vicky Phelan pictured with her 'outstanding contribution to society' award. Photo: Andrew Downes
Emma Mhic Mhathúna. Photo: Collins Courts

Aoife Moore

Minister for Health Simon Harris has faced calls in parliament for a further inquiry into the CervicalCheck scandal.

Political opponents made statements on the Scoping Inquiry into the CervicalCheck screening Programme since reviewing a report into the issue.

The review into the cervical cancer scandal in  by UK health expert Dr Gabriel Scally found there were “serious gaps” in governance and expertise and failure across the whole system of a cervical screening programme.

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Dr Gabriel Scally holds a copy of the Report of the Scoping Inquiry (Brian Lawless/PA)

The CervicalCheck scandal saw 221 women with cervical cancer not informed that smear test results showing them to be clear were inaccurate, and that revised test results were kept from them.

Eighteen women have since died.

Dr Scally said he believed there was no need for a commission of investigation, which some representatives claimed on Wednesday was Dr Scally overstretching his brief.

He has made 50 recommendations, which the government has accepted in full.

Mr Harris said that work is already under way to begin implementing the recommendations.

He said: “I plan to implement in full a new patient safety council, with core values, such as openness and honesty to rebuild trust in doctors.

“The committee includes representatives from families affected which meets weekly, and will oversee and direct all 50 implementations.

“I believe a vast amount in the medical profession hold these core values dear, the entire range of dedicated medical staff is one of our key assets, but there are failing that must be addressed.

“The government is committed to the cervical check screening programme and breast check, we know that screening saves lives.

“A well organised screening program can bring us very close to eliminating this disease.”

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Dr Gabriel Scally (Brian Lawless/PA)

He added Dr Scally noted there was a whole system failure, which deserves whole system response.

Fianna Fail said they were willing to move forward with the government, but were adamant that women should be at the centre of any implementations.

Fianna Fail TD Lisa Chambers revealed that she herself contacted the CervicalCheck helpline when the story first broke in the media.

She said: “Women are fed up, when this story emerged there was widespread fear and panic.

“I rang the helpline myself and it was most unhelpful, I was frustrated by process.

“We need to restore confidence in the screening programme, we need to do it rapidly, and your response Minister, was inadequate and allowed the programme to get worse.”

Fianna Fail TD Fiona O’Loughlin added: “It’s a wonder women don’t just spontaneously combust with rage in this country.

“It is no longer acceptable that decisions are made on their behalf as they have lost all trust in the system, women must never be left in the dark again, we cannot fail young women as their mothers have been.”

Sinn Fein TDs Louise O’Reilly and Mary Lou McDonald agreed there was scope for a  further commission of investigation into the issue.

Ms O’Reilly said: “The Scally Report has given us the framework but the work is not finished, there are so many more questions that remain and if we need a commission for investigation to get to the bottom of it then we should have one.”

Likewise, Labour TD Alan Kelly claimed that there were still further questions to be answered.

He said: “There must be some form of inquiry and investigation, which should be short and within tight terms of reference, we need to find out who did what, when, where and why.”

Press Association

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