Monday 25 March 2019

Eilish O'Regan: Report raises issues but victims still wait to learn who failed them


Dr Gabriel Scally. Photo: Mark Condren
Dr Gabriel Scally. Photo: Mark Condren
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

The first steps in the search for truth in the CervicalCheck scandal have been taken in the damning report by Dr Gabriel Scally.

But there is a long journey ahead if victims and families want to get the kind of answers they demand.

Many have already endured their saddest day after burying a loved one who died from cervical cancer, and endure the ongoing grief.

Others have been given a terminal diagnosis.

But their distress and agony has been compounded since April and the drip-feed of information they have received from the HSE and the Department of Health.

There has also been the failure of health officials to directly answer questions in Oireachtas and Dáil committees. So many times it looked like they were determined to resist as much as possible.

Then came the delay in releasing documents to the Scally scoping inquiry.

There was the ongoing struggle by women to get hold of their records.

Mother-of-five Emma Mhic Mhathúna, who is currently receiving hospital treatment for her advanced cancer, met with an unyielding wall in her fight to secure compensation to secure her family's future.

Ms Mhic Mhathúna's resilience and the unrelenting legal combat of her legal team eventually pushed her settlement to €7.5m.

Then there are the broken promises by the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Health Minister Simon Harris, who said no woman should have to endure another court ordeal.

Ruth Morrissey, who has cervical cancer and breast cancer, had no option but to lay her soul bear in the court and is facing more days in the witness box later this month.

Dr Scally is most critical about the failure to tell women who developed cervical cancer about the internal CervicalCheck audit showing their test result was wrong.

He is clear the policy of disclosure was not followed and women with cervical cancer and their families spent years in the dark about the lookback at their tests.

The chain of command in the health service to oversee the screening service is deficient. But his report does not name any individual or apportion blame.

Women who are battling terminal cancer and those who are now free of the disease want to know who failed them and without this there can be no closure.

Bereaved relatives of women who died, such as Stephen Teap, who lost his wife Irene to cancer and is bringing up two little boys, are driven by grief and loyalty to their deceased loved ones.

Despite Dr Scally's qualified statement of confidence, it will be six months before the report of an external group of experts tells them if there is any evidence of concern about the quality of screening in the laboratories used by CervicalCheck.

We know that two labs are trying to break free of a deal where they would pay out for test errors. It may yet be the price for extending their contract.

Irish Independent

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