Review of 3,000 CervicalCheck smear tests will take up to four months, Taoiseach says
Women must be asked for their consent and will be briefed individually, Dáil is told
The Taoiseach said there was a target of 28 days to provide medical records. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
All 3,000 women whose CervicalCheck smear tests are to be re-examined will be asked individually for their consent before the review begins, the Taoiseach has said.
Leo Varadkar told the Dáil that things had not been done the right way in the past and that this was part of the problem in the crisis, when 221 women had their cervical cancer misdiagnosed.
The Government had pledged the review would be completed by the end of May, but it has not yet commenced and is now expected to take four months.
Mr Varadkar said preliminary work by the UK Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists had started but that the college had advised the women should be individually asked for their consent.
He said this involved “their entire medical record. It is a bigger thing than just two people looking at a slide”, adding the college advised the review would take up to four months to complete.
Mr Varadkar said he was disturbed at the trauma and worry the women concerned have had to deal with. “We didn’t have all the facts at the outset, and we still don’t have all the facts.”
The Taoiseach told Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald that each woman would be individually briefed after the review of her records.
Ms McDonald had highlighted that the woman directly impacted by the crisis were being forced to go to court to get access to their files.
She said a Government that is serious about dealing with the crisis would give one instruction - to be urgent. She said the Government should also give all the resources necessary to deal with the crisis.
The Dublin Central TD also criticised the fact women were only being compensated for expenses from May and not for expenses incurred before then.
Mr Varadkar said “it isn’t possible to claim for retrospective expenses but they will be dealt with in the final settlement”.
He added that anyone had the right to go to court but mediation was being offered in all cases.
The Taoiseach said there was a target of 28 days to provide medical records, but he said files were different. Some were electronic files, some were on paper. Files were held in different places, and some involved X-rays and other screening items.
The Taoiseach confirmed that the commission of inquiry will begin in September. “We have the agreement of the IMO [Irish Medical Organisation] free of charge to give women the option of a repeat smear. A lot of women have taken up that.”