Government announces new supports for women affected by Cervical Check scandal

The women will get a discretionary medical cards and the costs of experimental drugs, among other supports

Government announces new supports for women affected by Cervical Check scandal

Image: Sean Defoe

Updated 19.20

The Taoiseach says the health service should be about saving lives, and not saving face.

Leo Varadkar was speaking after this morning's Cabinet meeting which discussed the Cervical Check scandal.

They agreed a package of supports for the women affected and their families.

That will include providing discretionary medical cards, provision of counselling and covering the cost of drugs including experimental treatments.

When asked what budget has been put aside for the supports, Health Minister Simon Harris responded that whatever resources are needed will be provided.

Meanwhile, John Connaghan has been appointed as interim Director General of the HSE this evening following Tony O'Brien's decision to step down in the wake of the cervical screening controversy.

John Connaghan. Photo: Leah Farrell / RollingNews.ie

Mr Connaghan joined the HSE as Deputy Director General and Chief Operating Officer last August, and had previously worked with NHS Scotland.

In a statement, Health Minister Simon Harris said: "John brings a wealth of senior healthcare management experience at an international level.

"He will be a tremendous resource in leading the HSE in challenging times. I want to thank John for taking on this interim role.” 

'We're determined to get to the bottom of this'

Speaking at this afternoon's press conference, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar again apologised to the women affected by the cervical screening scandal.

He says neither he nor Simon Harris were aware of these issues when in the Department of Health - adding that he would have liked to have known at the time.

Mr Varadkar said: "While nobody had a diagnosis of cancer withheld from them, important information about their health was not shared - in fact it was concealed, and that's totally unacceptable.

"We're determined to get to the bottom of this, and restore your faith in a service which should be about saving lives, and never about saving face."

He said no one will be immune from being held accountable for the scandal.

When asked about the case of Emma Mhic Mhathúna - who was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2016, after being given the all clear three years earlier - he became noticeably emotional.

"She is 37-years-old - roughly my age," he said.

"[she] could be my sister; could be one of my friends; has young children [who] could be my nephews.

"I am going to my nephew's communions tomorrow and when I see them, I see those kids as well; so there is nothing I can say that can take away the kind of pain and anguish that she has seen in her family."

Additional reporting by Stephen McNeice