Chairmen clash over which committee should examine CervicalCheck scandal

Harty says one committee should lead while Fleming defends PAC hearing

Vicky Phelan won a €2.5 million settlement after she received incorrect smear test results which failed to diagnose her with cervical cancer. Photograph: Collins Courts

Vicky Phelan won a €2.5 million settlement after she received incorrect smear test results which failed to diagnose her with cervical cancer. Photograph: Collins Courts

 

The chairmen of two Oireachtas Committees have clashed over which committee should examine the CervicalCheck controversy.

Dr Michael Harty, Independent TD and Chair of the Oireachtas Health Committee told Newstalk Breakfast that it was not good for Oireachtas Committees to duplicate or overlap.

He felt that the issue of the HSE and CervicalCheck’s response to the controversy lay within the remit of the Health Committee. “I believe one committee should lead this.”

However, Fianna Fáil’s Sean Fleming, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said that CervicalCheck was paid for from public funds and that the tax payer also paid for the laboratory tests in Ireland and outside Ireland.

He also rejected a suggestion that Oireachtas Committees were not the place for such examinations. He said the committees would help in bringing out information which will help the scoping inquiry.

Vicky Phelan and Stephen Teap are expected before the Public Accounts Committee at 5pm on Wednesday. Ms Phelan won a €2.5 million settlement after she received incorrect smear test results which failed to diagnose her with cervical cancer. Mr Teap’s wife Irene was diagnosed with cancer in 2015 and died last year after two undisclosed false tests in 2010 and 2013.

It emerged last month that at least 162 women with cervical cancer had not been informed about the audit results and past false tests. Of 209 women who could have had earlier intervention in light of false tests, 18 have died.

The Public Accounts Committee and the Health Committee had been criticised by the doctor appointed by government to lead the scoping inquiry.

Dr Gabriel Scally warned the Department of Health that “individuals are being distracted” as they prepare to appear before the committees.

Mr Fleming said that Oireachtas Committees could help provide information immediately as it “could be three years down the road” before there are results from the scoping inquiry which he said will have a narrow focus.

“What we’re doing is we’re already dealing with it. The information we get will help Dr Scally.”

On RTE’s Morning Ireland Labour’s Alan Kelly said that the information from the Public Accounts Committee will be quicker and that witnesses like Vicky Phelan wanted to be heard.

Dr Harty pointed out that some witnesses were appearing before both committees twice in one week and this could lead to confusion and duplication. He said he has asked the Ceann Comhairle to look at this situation.