Doc­tors’ ob­jec­tions known long be­fore case

Irish Independent - - News - Eil­ish O’Regan Health Cor­re­spon­dent

CER­VI­CALCHECK was warned six months be­fore the re­cent Vicky Phe­lan court case that doc­tors were ob­ject­ing to hav­ing to in­form pa­tients with cer­vi­cal can­cer that they were the vic­tim of a smear test mis­take.

A meet­ing in Septem­ber 2017 at­tended by Dr Gráinne Flan­nelly, the for­mer clin­i­cal di­rec­tor of Cer­vi­calCheck, was told of their re­sis­tance, the Pub­lic Ac­counts Com­mit­tee was told yes­ter­day.

The meet­ing heard a num­ber of doc­tors were up­set about hav­ing the onus put on them to tell pa­tients about their in­di­vid­ual re­views car­ried out by Cer­vi­calCheck. The re­views found they had been wrongly given the all-clear in their last smear test re­sult.

They also claimed that “in the ab­sence of clar­ity” doc­tors were put at a disad­van­tage when de­cid­ing who among the pa­tients should and should not be of­fered a face-to-face meet­ing.

The lat­est rev­e­la­tion was made in the Pub­lic Ac­counts Com­mit­tee yes­ter­day where se­nior Depart­ment of Health, HSE and Cer­vi­calCheck of­fi­cials in­sisted they were un­aware of the fail­ure to pass on the re­views to the women or their rel­a­tives in cases where they were de­ceased.

The re­views were given to treat­ing doc­tors to give to the women from mid-2016, but it was re­vealed two weeks ago 162 of the 209 can­cer pa­tients were never told about them.

Labour TD Alan Kelly, who sought the doc­u­men­ta­tion, said it was clear Cer­vi­calCheck was alerted to the fail­ure to tell the women long be­fore the April High Court case brought by Ms Phe­lan, the mother-of-two who now has ter­mi­nal can­cer.

HSE di­rec­tor of health and well­be­ing Dr Stephanie O’Ke­effe in­sisted she re­ceived monthly re­ports from Cer­vi­calCheck say­ing the process of telling the women was go­ing well.

Mem­bers of the com­mit­tee, how­ever, re­peat­edly ques­tioned her on why she did not ac­tively seek out ev­i­dence to sup­port this and avoid the trauma now en­dured by women with cer­vi­cal can­cer and the rel­a­tives of those have died.

John Glee­son, man­ager of Cer­vi­calCheck, in re­sponse to ques­tions said he was not “cer­tain” if it was his re­spon­si­bil­ity to track the where­abouts of the re­ports.

Ms O’Ke­effe brought the is­sue of re­views to the at­ten­tion of for­mer HSE chief Tony O’Brien.

But nei­ther the Health Min­is­ter Si­mon Har­ris nor sec­re­tary gen­eral of the Depart­ment of Health Jim Bres­lin were in­formed by chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer Tony Holo­han. Mr Bres­lin ad­mit­ted that de­spite the hurt and con­fu­sion of re­cent weeks, Mr Har­ris has not in­tro­duced any new pro­to­cols to en­sure les­sons have been learned. It also emerged draft press re­leases were drawn up by Cer­vi­calCheck in early 2016 in the event of the review re­ports go­ing pub­lic. In an­other twist, it emerged a se­nior mem­ber of the HSE press of­fice was in­volved but did not in­form her boss, HSE di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

Se­nior of­fi­cials in­sisted they were un­aware of fail­ure to pass re­views

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