Belfast Telegraph

Cancer case woman Vicky Phelan is 'brutally honest' meeting with Taoiseach

The woman at the centre of the Republic's CervicalCheck scandal has held a "frank" meeting with the Taoiseach, relaying her concerns over the Irish government's handling of the issue.

Vicky Phelan's cancer was missed in a smear test three years before she was diagnosed with the disease.

A series of women in the Republic with cervical cancer were not told that smear test results showing them to be in the clear were inaccurate and the revised test results were kept from them.

A total of 221 women were involved in the controversy, 18 of whom have since died.

After a two-hour meeting with Leo Varadkar, Ms Phelan said: "It was very frank, not tense, but he knew I meant business.

"The Taoiseach promised me that he meant what he said and that the state will attempt to settle all cases through mediation.

"I was brutally honest about how harrowing the courtroom is for women, since I have already been through it, and I was very clear I don't want to see any more women in the courtroom."

Ms Phelan (43), settled an Irish High Court action against a US lab in April for €2.5m after her cancer was missed in a smear test taken as part of the Republic's CervicalCheck programme.

The missed smear test was discovered in 2014, after her cancer diagnosis, but she was not told about it until 2017.

The Taoiseach confirmed that the preferred option is a public commission of inquiry.

He told Ms Phelan that if required, legislation will be brought forward so that the inquiry can be made open to the public.

"Letters of consent will be sent out to the 221 affected families at first to get the independent review going, letters to the larger population of women involved in the audit will follow, that's expected to take three to four months," she said.

Ms Phelan said she also raised concerns that the Irish government's proposed new government safety bill does not sanction individual health care providers.

The bill says that fines for breaches of the patient safety law in the Republic would be imposed on healthcare providers rather than individual practitioners.

"I expressed concern that the proposed public safety bill does not include sanctions for individual health care practitioners, and only healthcare providers.

"He told me the bill will be passed through the Dail in September, so I will be voicing my concern about the absence of sanctions for health care practitioners to (Irish health minister) Simon Harris.

"The fines are a joke, they don't act as a deterrent.

"I want to see people adhering to a bill and not just getting a slap on the wrist.

"In my case, some of the harm was done by individual practitioners and that's why I wanted to flag that issue."

Ms Phelan has also hit out at abuse and criticism she has received for her campaigning on the CervicalCheck issue.

"There is a feeling out there, people who still think that these women, including me, are the limitations of screening," she added. "Our cases were identified for a reason, as the errors were so grave."

Belfast Telegraph

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