CervicalCheck victims refused their files; lawyers ‘escorted off premises’ – Dáil hears
No victims should be treated in way that adds to their trauma, Simon Coveney says
Vicky Phelan and Stephen Teap arriving at Leinster House on Wednesday afternoon. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos
No victims of the CervicalCheck cancer screening controversy should be treated in a way that adds to their trauma, Tánaiste Simon Coveney has said.
Mr Coveney was responding in the Dáil to Sinn Féin deputy leader Pearse Doherty, who said two women with cervical cancer “who do not have time on their side” were having difficulty getting their own medical records.
Mr Doherty said the women’s legal representatives had been assured the documentation would be available. But when they arrived at CervicalCheck headquarters in Limerick last Friday “they were told the documentation would not be made available and they were escorted off the premises.
“This was done in the presence of the programme manager for CervicalCheck John Gleeson, ” he said.
The issue had been raised by Cian O’Connell, solicitor for Vicky Phelan whose High Court case led to the controversy being made public.
The Donegal TD also said supports pledged to women and families affected by the matter had not been received more than a week later.
Mr Doherty said the Government had repeatedly stated that there would be a package of supports available to the women affected and that pending court cases will be dealt with through mediation.
“We understand there are more cases to be lodged this week,” he said.
He said no support services were offered to Stephen Teap, whose wife Irene died from cervical cancer in 2015. She was one of 209 women not informed of the cervical screening audit. Mr Teap told the Public Accounts Committee on Wednesday that families had not received the supports.
Mr Doherty claimed that “what comes from Government is more about being seen to take action, rather than delivering substantive action”.
However, the Tánaiste said “there is no question that any information or files will be hidden from anybody”.
“No victims here should be treated in a way that adds any further to the trauma they have witnessed and the challenges they continue to face,” he said.
Mr Coveney said that “if any commitments were made to make files available to committees then that information will be forthcoming”.
He said Mr Teap’s comments about supports had influenced the packages that would be tailor-made in terms of items such as medical cards and out of pocket expenses. He insisted that Government had tried to respond to the needs and wants of those affected by the crisis and “we are appointing people within the HSE to go out and talk to families” to ensure “we get that package right”.
Mr Doherty repeated his call for the publication of documents that had been promised to Oireachtas committees including the 2014 CervicalCheck audit.
He also repeated a call for the publication of advice from the chief medical officer to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, when he was minister for health, on mandatory disclosure.
Mr Doherty said the Department of Health’s chief medical officer was advised of the CervicalCheck scandal at around the same time that Mr Varadkar changed his view from legislating for mandatory to voluntary disclosure of serious patient safety incidents.
Mr Coveney told him that any documents promised would be provided. In relation to accountability, he said the Government was insistent that “nobody is excluded from full scrutiny”.
He added that “the way we can do that most comprehensively is to let Dr (Gabriel) Scally get on with the work he has to do”, in the scoping inquiry into CervicalCheck.