LEO MISHANDLED CERVICAL CRISIS, SAY FINE GAEL TDS
FINE Gael TDs were last night deeply critical of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s handling of the CervicalCheck crisis. His intervention was deemed too late, while his interviews and media performances were described as ‘insincere’ and ‘lacking in detail’.
Female Fine Gael parliamentarians were particularly scathing in their criticism.
One woman said: ‘He is the man who is in charge and he has seemed happy to let Simon Harris do all the running on this, thinking he could avoid the flak.
‘But he belatedly realised that the crisis is so intense that it is damaging his Government, and most hurtfully, his image.
‘He only seemed to intervene properly in the crisis after media criticism came his way. But then it was too late.’
Another TD said that the resignation of HSE director general Tony O’Brien also came two weeks too late.
‘Leo should have moved him out ages ago, it’s all been cackhandedly handled,’ they said.
Dublin Bay South TD Kate O’Connell was the first to call on Mr O’Brien to resign. She did not criticise Mr Varadkar, who she opposed in last year’s leadership campaign, but continued in vocal attack on the health service.
‘We have for years discussed how top heavy the HSE is with management and wrung our hands about how we need to reform and change, but when that dysfunction within the HSE distils down a result that leads to dead women and worse outcomes for women, we see very tangible results on the dysfunction of the organisation,’ she told the Irish Mail on Sunday yesterday.
‘The structure is, to my mind, to show the tiers of who is in charge, the tiers of authority, but actually when you ask who is in charge it doesn’t seem to bear any relation to the structure of the HSE.
‘It seems to be more about job titles and positions than actually delivering healthcare for people.’
She urged for the speedy enactment of ‘accountability legislation’ that was first heralded by Health Minister Simon Harris in this newspaper last week.
‘When you’re a professional such as a nurse, a doctor or a pharmacist you have a regulatory body that has a statutory footing, that you are answerable to, regardless of who your employer is, separate to your employer. However, within the HSE organisational structure, those people aren’t accountable, generally speaking, to a regulatory body. That, to my mind, poses a difficulty.’
Ms O’Connell, who is a pharmacist, added that doctors should be given primacy over managers in the HSE. And she continued in a vocal criticism of Mr O’Brien. ‘Tony O’Brien still seems to think it’s all about himself,’ she said. ‘And really, two weeks in, it is hard to fathom how anyone could be thinking about themselves at this point in time.’
Asked whether Mr O’Brien should have gone earlier, she replied: ‘It is hard to know now. I think the memo that came out in the week was the nail in Tony
O’Brien’s coffin. It is fairly clear to me that memo wasn’t addressed properly, or didn’t go to the right places, or wasn’t communicated to the right people, and that’s very serious.’
The Government has said that neither Minister Harris nor his predecessor at the Department of Health, Leo Varadkar, were made aware of the looming scandal by officials. The crucial memo that informed Mr O’Brien and others was delivered in March 2016, when Mr Varadkar was Minister for Health.
Mr Varadkar told a press conference on Friday that his special advisers were not made aware of this memo either.
Meanwhile, despite the mounting scandals, Ms O’Connell encouraged people to have faith in screening programmes.
‘Because the CervicalCheck scandal has had a real impact on people’s lives.
‘Despite all the organisational issues, despite all the people in important roles, despite all of the awful, awful cases that are emerging, the whole function of our cancer strategy is to improve outcomes for the people of Ireland.’
AddREssIng COnCERns: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, left, and Minister Simon Harris this week