Questions remain over handling of cervical cancer screening programme errors

Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Health Stephen Donnelly TD has said several questions remain to be answered by the Government regarding the handling of errors within the HSE run cervical cancer screening programme.

Deputy Donnelly said, “I want to commend the bravery of Vicky Phelan in her relentless pursuit of answers relating to the mishandling of her case. It’s completely unacceptable that she and her family have had to go to courts to find out information which should have been provided to them as soon as it came to light. I fully agree with Ms Phelan’s description of this being an appalling breach of trust.

“The response from the HSE to date has been completely inadequate. It’s important that all questions relating to the mishandling of this case, and that of 14 other women, are dealt with immediately and that a repeat of this situation never happens again.

“Patients must trust that they are getting the full facts as soon as is practicable from their doctors, who in turn must feel free to be able to share sensitive information without fear of legal consequences. Mandatory reporting is needed to achieve this.

“The Tánaiste has today indicated that mandatory reporting will be implemented, but one has to question why it wasn’t in place before now. Then Health Minister Leo Varadkar, in 2016, said that he would not introduce mandatory reporting. This is despite promising to do just that a year previously. Current Health Minister Simon Harris also decided to introduce a voluntary open disclosure scheme rather than a mandatory one just last year. It should not have taken Ms Phelan’s Case for the Government to act.

“We also need to know why Ms Phelan’s doctor wasn’t told of the mistake with her case until 2016, even though the audit that identified the issue took place in 2014. Who took the decision to withhold this vital piece of information for two years?  Why did the HSE propose in its circular that, in the case of now deceased patients, the finding of an error should only be noted in the patient file? It’s never right to withhold such information from a patient’s family.

“Ms Phelan and the 14 other women affected by this deserve full disclosure by the HSE and Government,” concluded Deputy Donnelly.

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