Tuesday 22 October 2019

'We're too meek, too soft, feckin' eejits, we have to question': Phelan

Determined: CervicalCheck campaigner Vicky Phelan with Mary Kennedy at a talk about her new book at the Clontarf Castle Hotel. Photo: Arthur Carron
Determined: CervicalCheck campaigner Vicky Phelan with Mary Kennedy at a talk about her new book at the Clontarf Castle Hotel. Photo: Arthur Carron
Laura Lynott

Laura Lynott

Vicky Phelan does not believe women can truly achieve everlasting improvements to healthcare "until we have a seat at the table".

She told a public audience: "The one point I'm consistently trying to make is Irish people have to start asking questions. We are too meek, too soft, feckin eejits.

"If we get a bad meal in a restaurant, we don't send it back.

"I don't give a s*** what people think about me.

"I'm lucky, I'm a difficult mother. You have to have a steely determination if you want to make change happen.

"Consultants have to see people won't accept it. It will take a while."

Ms Phelan, who has become Ireland's most famous advocate for women affected by the CervicalCheck scandal, added: "It still kills me that no one admitted liability," after she successfully settled her High Court case last year.

"I said 'are they admitting liability?' [as the court case reached a conclusion]. It really p***** me off they can pay out €2m and not admit liability."

Ms Phelan gave a powerful interview to writer Mary Kennedy at Clontarf Castle, Dublin, as part of a publicity event for her newly launched memoir 'Overcoming'.

Ms Phelan admitted she did not feel enough had changed across the landscape of women's healthcare following the CervicalCheck controversy last year. And this, she said, would only be achieved when more women were in charge of policy-making.

"I never thought women were treated differently... until everything last year," Ms Phelan said. "The stories I've heard over the last year-and-a-half are too difficult not to say something is going on.

"I definitely think these quotas [for women in politics] aren't going to work.

"We should have a minister for women. A political role with teeth... We need a seat at the table or we won't get anywhere."

One woman with health issues stood up during a public Q&A, saying she had helped build an online support group, but still felt she was being ignored by policymakers.

Ms Phelan said she believed it would "take a long time" for women to gain equality in healthcare across the board.

'Overcoming', written with Naomi Linehan, is €14.99 in stores and online.

Ms Phelan will be in conversation with Elaine Crowley at the Radisson Blu in Cork on Sunday and with Rachael English at the Castletroy Park Hotel in Limerick on Sunday, September 29.

Tickets are €20 and include one pre-signed copy of the book.

A HSE spokeswoman told Independent.ie: "The HSE apologises to Vicky Phelan and all patients affected by issues in our CervicalCheck service. We are doing everything possible to improve our standards of service.

"Vicky’s personal experience and advocacy has been central in the establishment of the Scally Review, and her work in raising awareness of the importance of cervical screening is extremely important for the programme.

"The uptake rate for the HPV vaccine (as part of the school vaccination programme) is at 70% now, marking an increase of 20 percentage points in just over two years. Again, the campaigning of Vicky Phelan and others, including the late Laura Brennan, in encouraging participation in this programme is very much appreciated.

"This work has been further enhanced with patient representatives on project committees, quality and risk groups and the formation of a patient panel for CervicalCheck.

"The work of people like Lorraine Walsh and Stephen Teap, in a voluntary capacity, has ensured that the interests of the patient have been at the centre of significant changes that have improved the programme in recent months.

"The HSE is committed to delivering a high quality cervical screening programme for the women of Ireland."

The Department of Health were contacted for comment.

Irish Independent

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