Scally Report is fine, but we need names
DR GABRIEL SCALLY’S report into the CervicalCheck scandal was anything but a whitewash, but it nonetheless remains incomplete. Although established as a scoping exercise, the end result was more forceful than most expected, with doctors and consultants labelled patrician and misogynistic, and their failure to inform women of false negative readings slated.
So, yes, it was thorough and insightful, but its fundamental failing is that no-one has been held to account. That is disappointing. We are not calling for a witchhunt because, in every area of life, people make mistakes – but unless we find out who made them, and why, then those mistakes will continue to be made.
We must do better. Certainly, the HSE must not be allowed to investigate itself. Without Vicky Phelan we would not have known anything about the failings in CervicalCheck, and we should not forget that the HSE and US lab she sued tried to make her sign a confidentiality agreement.
That does not bode well for the ability of the HSE to publicly admit its wrongs.
A full inquiry would be welcome, with those involved compelled to publicly testify, but there is no appetite for that in Government. As two ministers for Justice found out to their cost, deep probing tends to lead all the way to the top, and sackings and resignations are unavoidable.
Instead, the Government is considering other options, the most likely being that Dr Scally will investigate further. If he does, he must name names. We have seen too many anodyne reports with no consequences for us to tolerate it any longer. Unaccountability is the malaise that infects every area of our governance.
We must instead inculcate a culture of inquiry that not just finds out what went wrong but who made mistakes. Who decided, after the audit of smear tests, the women who received false negatives should not be told? Who failed to exercise oversight in dealings with the US labs? Whose failure to do their job played a role in the needless deaths of some women and left others facing an uncertain future?
Dr Scally found there was a ‘whole systems failure’ in CervicalCheck, but he said there was no evidence of a conspiracy, corruption or cover-up. That’s as may be after a scoping exercise, but it’s not a final verdict. After all, he had to go public on the HSE’s failure to supply him with documentation in an easily searchable format, so it is not inconceivable the documentation provided was also incomplete.
The Irish Medical Council can take unilateral action against medics who withheld information from the 221 women, and it must. Above all, though, we need a comprehensive investigation into the scandal. We must know whose negligence or incompetence led us here, and those people must be held accountable.