Daly urges Government to ‘take the lawyers out of hospitals’

TD claims no-fault compensation system should be introduced after cancer scandal

Independents4Change TD Clare Daly said the programme for government provided a “suite of measures” that could “transform the situation”in the health service. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Independents4Change TD Clare Daly said the programme for government provided a “suite of measures” that could “transform the situation”in the health service. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

Civil servants are ruling the health service “unelected and unaccountable” because the Government is too busy staying in power and the Opposition is too busy scoring points, the Dáil has heard.

Independents4Change TD Clare Daly also hit out at the media as being “too bloody lazy” to analyse the cervical cancer screening crisis.

In an impassioned contribution during Leaders’ Questions, the Dublin Fingal TD said the programme for government provided a “suite of measures” that could “transform the situation”, including mandatory disclosure and a “no-fault compensation system to deal with this issue once and for all to take the lawyers out of hospitals”.

She pointed out that the State Claims Agency must be notified within 48 hours of a serious adverse incident but patients are not told and “families are dragged through the courts”.

As the cervical cancer screening controversy entered its third week, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar agreed there had been “too much political point scoring on this issue and a degree of political opportunism”.

The controversy began when Limerick woman Vicky Phelan won a €2.5 million settlement after she received incorrect smear test results which failed to diagnose her with cervical cancer. It has since emerged that 18 out of 209 women who received false negative tests subsequently died.

Mr Varadkar insisted they would deal with mandatory reporting “in the next couple of months” and said he had initiated the process of setting up a working group to look at “alternative means of settling medical negligence cases including a no-fault system”.

Documents

Earlier, he told Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin that a trawl of 40 million documents and emails showed no concerns about patient safety of “any particular labs”, in the CervicalCheck screening controversy.

“Those emails and documents confirm no concerns about patient safety raised, no concerns about the efficacy of the programme, no concerns about the accuracy of the programme, no concerns about the accuracy of any particular labs”.

He said the only issue in these documents related to the “non-open disclosure of information to patients and to doctors”.

Mr Varadkar also reiterated what he and Minister for Health Simon Harris said last week, that Ministers,the secretary general or political advisers had not been informed about any problems with audits of the screening programme.

Officials “didn’t escalate it” to any minister, Mr Varadkar, a former minister for health, said.

The Taoiseach said the memos released last week showed the lack of concern for the women involved.

The HSE and department officials wrongly assumed that the information was passed on to all the women, but it was only passed on to a quarter of the women, he said.

Mr Varadkar said he could understand the department’s concern for reputational damage “but I don’t understand the lack of concern for the women involved”.

He said the best way to get to the truth was to allow Dr Gabriel Scally to conduct his scoping inquiry rather than to look at individual elements of the controversy.

Mr Martin said: “I do find it very difficult to comprehend why the hospitals level never discussed this with SecGen [department secretary general] or anyone else”.

He said he was talking about “discussing the issue, not the sharing of documents”.

Mr Martin said there had been a lack of political leadership in the department since the controversy emerged.

He said that people were angry and confused about the scandal.

Mr Martin, a former minister for health, said: “That’s the type of thing that one would expect would be alerted to the secretary general or the Minister. It is extraordinary in my view that the acute hospital section [of the department] did not alert the Minister.”

The Taoiseach insisted that “they didn’t escalate it”.

He added that “the HSE and department officials wrongly assumed that the information was passed on to all the women, but it was only passed on to quarter of the women”.