Belfast Telegraph

Vicky Phelan ‘brutally honest’ with Taoiseach over handling of cancer cases

The woman at the centre of the Irish CervicalCheck controversy held talks with Leo Varadkar.

The woman at the centre of the Irish CervicalCheck scandal has held a “frank” meeting with the Taoiseach relaying her concerns over the 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 number of women in Ireland 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.

Vicky Phelan said she was brutally honest with the Taoiseach (Niall Carson/PA)

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

Ms Phelan said the two-hour meeting with Leo Varadkar was frank.

“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 a High Court action against a US lab in April for 2.5 million euro after her cancer was missed in a smear test taken as part of the CervicalCheck programme.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has stated a preference for an inquiry (Brian Lawless/PA)

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 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 Government’s proposed new government safety bill does not sanction individual health care providers.

The Bill says fines for breaches of the patient safety law 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 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.

Vicky Phelan has said she will take a break from campaigning (Niall Carson/PA)

“Our cases were identified for a reason, as the errors were so grave.

“Its very unfair on the families involved for people to think we’re out to get money.

“I have been pushing screening since the start, screening saves lives, but I want a screening programme we can trust.”

Ms Phelan is to take a break from campaigning against the CervicalCheck scandal and from Twitter from Thursday onwards.

Ms Phelan wrote a series of tweets last night outlining her reasons: “I will be taking a break from Twitter and from all #CervicalCheckScandal campaigning after tomorrow, some of you will be glad to know.

“I am deeply disturbed by the lack of empathy in some quarters towards the women & families affected by the scandal.”

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