Gov­ern­ment sat­is­fac­tion lev­els suf­fer af­ter cer­vi­cal can­cer con­tro­versy

New le­gal ac­tions heap pres­sure on of­fi­cial re­sponse to Cer­vi­calCheck con­tro­versy Fall in ap­proval rat­ings much sharper among women than men, poll shows

The Irish Times - - Front Page - PAT LEAHY and SI­MON CAR­SWELL

The Gov­ern­ment’s ap­proval rat­ings have slumped in re­cent weeks, with a large de­cline among women in the wake of the cer­vi­cal can­cer screen­ing scan­dal.

The lat­est Ir­ish Times/Ip­sos MRBI shows that the sat­is­fac­tion rat­ing of the Gov­ern­ment has fallen from 44 per cent in the last poll in mid-April – the high­est rat­ing for any gov­ern­ment since 2011 – to 37 per cent.

The fall has been much sharper among women than men.

In April, 41 per cent of women ap­proved of the way the Gov­ern­ment was do­ing its job, with 51 per cent disapproving. To­day, the sat­is­fac­tion rat­ing among women has fallen to 29 per cent, with 58 per cent say­ing they are now dis­sat­is­fied.

The net dis­sat­is­fac­tion rate – the difference be­tween those who are sat­is­fied and those who are dis­sat­is­fied with the Gov­ern­ment – among women is now 29 points, up from just 10 points last month.

While it is not un­usual for a gov­ern­ment to have a net dis­sat­is­fac­tion rat­ing, this is an ex­tremely large and rare move in one month and co­in­cides with the cer­vi­cal screen­ing rev­e­la­tions. New le­gal ac­tions taken against the State heaped fur­ther pres­sure on the Gov­ern­ment to step up its re­sponse to the con­tro­versy around the fail­ure of the Cer­vi­calCheck screen­ing pro­gramme to in­form women about in­cor­rect smear tests.

Al­leged de­lays

Two more women be­gan le­gal pro­ceed­ings against the Health Ser­vice Ex­ec­u­tive (HSE) and US lab­o­ra­to­ries over al­leged de­lays in the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of ab­nor­mal­i­ties in smear tests prior to be­ing di­ag­nosed with cer­vi­cal can­cer.

These are the first cases to come be­fore the High Court since the con­tro­versy arose last month af­ter Lim­er­ick woman Vicky Phe­lan set­tled her ac­tion against US lab­o­ra­tory Clin­i­cal Pathol­ogy Lab­o­ra­to­ries for ¤2.5 mil­lion.

A HSE in­ves­ti­ga­tion has shown that 162 women were not told about au­dits re­veal­ing in­cor­rect tests. Mr Jus­tice Kevin Cross set dates in July for the two new court ac­tions and a third taken by a woman with ovar­ian can­cer who was led to re-ex­am­ine her own screen­ing his­tory in light of the Cer­vi­calCheck con­tro­versy.

She too al­leges that her ill­ness should have been di­ag­nosed ear­lier and that past tests missed her can­cer.

Cian O’Car­roll, the Co Tip­per­ary solic­i­tor who rep­re­sented Ms Phe­lan, is act­ing for the three women.

Speak­ing about the two with cer­vi­cal can­cer, he said: “The na­ture and ex­tent of the harm is so great that un­for­tu­nately these women, in the opin­ions of their doc­tors, have very lit­tle time left and both cases then must be treated with the great­est ur­gency.” One woman is tak­ing a case against Med­lab Pathol­ogy, the sis­ter com­pany of the lab sued by Ms Phe­lan, while the other is be­ing taken against Med­lab and a sec­ond US-owned lab that tests for Cer­vi­calCheck, Quest Di­ag­nos­tics Ire­land.

Ac­cess to files

The cases were raised in the Dáil by Sinn Féin TD Pearse Do­herty who said the women’s le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tives were re­fused ac­cess to files promised to them last week when they arrived to get their doc­u­ments last Fri­day. “This was done in the pres­ence of the pro­gramme man­ager for Cer­vi­calCheck John Glee­son and they were es­corted off the premises,” he said.

Tá­naiste Si­mon Coveney said in the Dáil that no vic­tims should be treated in a way that adds to their trauma. The State Claims Agency, which de­fends the State in le­gal ac­tions, said that it will en­gage with the lab­o­ra­to­ries “with the aim of re­solv­ing these cases in a sen­si­tive man­ner as a mat­ter of ur­gency and with­out the re­quire­ment for a court hear­ing.”

The cases will in­crease pres­sure on Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar to fol­low through on his pledge last week to help the sick women avoid the or­deal of tri­als and to set­tle with them and pur­sue the labs.

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