HSE chief­blames doc­tors for suf­fer­ers be­ing left in the dark

Irish Independent - - News - Eil­ish O’Regan

THE act­ing head of the HSE blamed doc­tors for not pass­ing on au­dits to women who de­vel­oped cer­vi­cal can­cer af­ter get­ting an in­cor­rect smear test.

John Con­naghan said he agreed the “re­spon­si­bil­ity” to pro­vide women with the au­dits – con­firm­ing the er­ror – stood with their doc­tors.

He was re­spond­ing to the chair­man of the Pub­lic Ac­counts Com­mit­tee Sean Flem­ing, who asked him if he felt the doc­tors should have com­mu­ni­cated with “the women as ap­pro­pri­ate”.

It is the first time the HSE has di­rectly blamed the doc­tors in the de­ba­cle.

The is­sue of who bears ul­ti­mate re­spon­si­bil­ity for keep­ing women in the dark for so long about their au­dits will be one of the key ques­tions to be an­swered in the in­quiry be­ing car­ried out by Dr Gabriel Scally.

Ear­lier ev­i­dence re­vealed that in 2016 there was a freeze on the re­lease of the au­dits by Cer­vi­calCheck.

They were even­tu­ally sent to the women’s doc­tors with ad­vice from Cer­vi­calCheck to “use their judg­ment” on whether to hand them over.

Most women were never in­formed and only found out about them af­ter the case of Vicky Phe­lan in April last.

No­body in the HSE or Cer­vi­calCheck tracked to see if the women had re­ceived the au­dits.

John Glee­son, pro­gramme man­ager of Cer­vi­calCheck, yes- ter­day de­nied telling the State Claims Agency in April that all the women had re­ceived their re­ports.

He told the com­mit­tee he in­formed agency staff in a tele-con­fer­ence that he “as­sumed” all the women had been told as their doc­tors had been given the au­dits.

How­ever, Ciaran Breen of the State Claims Agency said it re­mained his un­der­stand­ing of the com­ment at the time that all the women had been given their au­dits.

Ques­tioned by the com­mit­tee, he said he did not be­lieve his po­si­tion was “un­ten­able”.

‘There is no point in you. I think the whole lot of you should be sent pack­ing’

Mr Con­naghan sup­ported him.

The HSE is to pass on let­ters of in­vi­ta­tion from Dr Gabriel Scally to 209 women, in­clud­ing the fam­i­lies of those who died, to give their tes­ti­mony to the scop­ing in­quiry into the Cer­vi­calCheck scan­dal.

Dr Scally, who is lead­ing the probe, hopes to or­gan­ise a num­ber of meet­ings around the coun­try to hear the first­hand ac­counts of women and be­reaved fam­i­lies.

The an­swers pro­vided by the of­fi­cials from the HSE and Cer­vi­calCheck yes­ter­day led to Fine Gael back­bencher Kate O’Con­nell to de­clare: “There is no point in you be­cause you can­not give us an­swers.

“I think the whole lot of you should be sent pack­ing.

“This is the mid­dle of June and we are none the wiser.”

The Cer­vi­calCheck helpline is con­tin­u­ing to re­ceive calls.

Since it was set up sev­eral weeks ago it had around 24,000 calls.

One of the 209 women who de­vel­oped cer­vi­cal can­cer af­ter a wrong smear test still can­not be found. She is be­lieved to be in Rus­sia.

Mean­while, Cer­vi­calCheck is cur­rently try­ing to re­cruit a new clin­i­cal di­rec­tor.

HSE act­ing chief John Con­naghan at Le­in­ster House

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