CervicalCheck inquiry’s final report due in September

Vicky Phelan and Stephen Teap to launch patient advocacy group on the same day

Vicky Phelan was diagnosed with terminal cancer last year after signs of the illness were missed in previous smear tests conducted under the CervicalCheck programme. She was not told her test had been misread until 2016. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

Vicky Phelan was diagnosed with terminal cancer last year after signs of the illness were missed in previous smear tests conducted under the CervicalCheck programme. She was not told her test had been misread until 2016. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

 

The Scally Inquiry into the CervicalCheck scandal involving dozens of women’s smear tests being misread is to publish its final report on September 1st.

On the same day Vicky Phelan and Stephen Teap will launch a new patient advocacy and support group for people affected by the controversy. This has been arranged in conjunction with Dr Gabriel Scally who is conducting the inquiry, Ms Phelan and Mr Teap said on Wednesday.

Ms Phelan was diagnosed with terminal cancer last year after signs of the illness were missed in previous smear tests conducted under the CervicalCheck programme. She was not told her test had been misread until 2016.

Mr Teap lost his wife Irene to cervical cancer last year after her tests were also misread. Both were speaking on Wednesday at the MacGill Summer School in Glenties, Co. Donegal.

Asked what he expects to come from the Scally report, Mr Teap said any follow-up commission of inquiry must be held in public.

“Imagine doing an investigation into a cover-up behind closed doors in this country with the political heads that we have. It won’t work.”

Ms Phelan was adamant they don’t want a full tribunal on the matter “because that will take too long”.

She said their patient support group is being funded by the Department of Health for three years. They have been promised there will be no interference from the HSE, she said.

A full-time nurse will be hired to deal with enquiries from people whose scans have been misread. Some estimates put the number of affected women at over 400.

Ms Phelan was diagnosed with cervical cancer after a US company, Clinical Pathology Labratories, misread her smear test. She wasn’t told her test had been misread until 2016. In April she settled with CPL for a record €2.5 million.

As part of the settlement, her case against the HSE was dropped with no admission of liability.

On Wednesday she revealed for the first time the State made a €25,000 contribution to the CPL settlement, a fact she only learned from Dr Scally.

“Gabriel knew how outraged I was over the lack of admission so he told me when I met him one of the days up in Dublin.”

Ms Phelan said she views the €25,000 contribution as some admission of liability on the part of the HSE.

“They have to accept some bit of responsibilty if they’re contributing to the settlement.”

Tumour shrink

On the subject of her own health, the mother of two said she is responding extremely well to an experimental cancer treatment which has seen her tumour shrink substantially.

“Do I look like someone who is dying?” a healthy and energetic looking Ms Phelan asked reporters.

“It is going great, the only affect is inflammation in my hands. So I get very sore hands, hands like arthritis, but I have a great quality of life.

“That’s why I refused the chemotherapy because I’ve seen other women who have gone through it before.”

She continued: “It was a big gamble but it paid off because I’ve a good quality of life now. I’ve had over 50 per cent reduction on my tumour and that’s only after three doses of this drug.”

During her speech in Glenties, Ms Phelan called the fines proposed for health service providers who breach disclosure rules “a joke”.

After the CervicalCheck scandal broke, Minister for Health Simon Harris brought forward a patient safety bill which provides for the mandatory open disclosure of serious patient safety incidents to patients and imposes fines on health care providers who fail to abide.

Ms Phelan said the bill is welcome but doesn’t go far enough.

Fines for breaches of the law would be imposed on health care providers, not individual practitioners.

“And the fine are a joke; €5,000 or three months in prison or €7,000 and six months in prison.”

“Hospitals pay fines every day,” she said. “€5,000 is nothing to these people. They’re not sanctions.”