Scally Re­port is fine, but we need names

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - COMMENT -

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.

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