Harris says misinformation given over CervicalCheck scandal "appalling"

The HSE chief is to take leave of absence from the board of a US company

Harris says misinformation given over CervicalCheck scandal "appalling"

Health Minister Simon Harris speaking to the press as he visit Dublin's Moore Street | Image: RollingNews.ie

Updated: 19.30

The Health Minister Simon Harris says it is "appalling" he was not given accurate information about the full scope of the CervicalCheck scandal straight away.

On Tuesday Mr Harris was told an extra 1,500 women might be caught up in the crisis, just minutes before he was due to answer questions on it in the Dáil.

He has said they will do a scoping exercise over the next month that may give rise to a Commission of Investigation.

But it could be next week before we know what the investigation into Cervical Check will look like.

Minister Harris told the Seanad he was unhappy at not having the full facts straight away.

"Let me say clearly: I think we're going to need a Commission of Inquiry and a Commission of Investigation with full statutory powers so that people must actually say 'who knew what, where and when' - so we can learn from this.

"But what we don't want to do, and I'm conscious of what Vicky Phelan said we don't want to do, is just jump straight into a process that could go on for a period of time".

"Our citizens in this country should expect that the facts that our given to a minister are the facts.

"And I really just think that the incidences of that evening were quite appalling".

HSE advice for those affected:

Here is the advice from the HSE to women with normal CervicalCheck test results:

  • You can continue your normal schedule of tests. Please review the information on cervicalcheck.ie
  • If you are still worried, please contact your GP or smear-taker and discuss your concerns
  • If you or your GP remain concerned, you can access a free CervicalCheck test from your GP or smear-taker

Here is HSE advice for people who have a history of treatment or assessment for cervical cancer or pre-cancer:

  • Review the information on cervicalcheck.ie or call the information line on 1800-45-45-55
  • If you are still worried, please contact your colposcopy clinic
  • If you were discharged from a colposcopy clinic in the past, and are not currently in treatment, you can access a free CervicalCheck test from your GP or smear-taker

For women who have been diagnosed with cervical cancer:

  • Call the information line on 1800-45-45-55
  • Review the information on cervicalcheck.ie and your call will be returned as soon as possible
 Tony O'Brien | Image: Mark Stedman/RollingNews.ie

Meanwhile, the director general of the Health Service Executive (HSE) Tony O'Brien is to take a leave of absence from the board of the US medical company he joined earlier this year.

He had taken up a role with the US manufacturer Evofem Biosciences with the consent of the Health Minister.

The Tánaiste Simon Coveney confirmed earlier that Mr O'Brien - who is due to leave his role as HSE chief this summer - will take a temporary break from the contraceptives manufacturer to focus on the Cervical Check scandal.

Mr Coveney said Mr O'Brien will temporarily step away from "any involvement outside the HSE".

The Tánaiste observed: "Tony O'Brien can be of most use to the women of Ireland in terms of establishing facts here if he focuses fully in trying to assist in the process the Government is trying to put together."

However, Sinn Féin has claimed that the leave of absence does not go far enough.

Pearse Doherty TD argued: "People have died without the information that they were entitled to. Somebody - and that person at the head of the organisation which denied them that information - has to be held to account."

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has previously called on Mr O'Brien to be removed from his role.

People Before Profit TD Brid Smith, meanwhile, questioned Simon Harris' will to hold anyone to account for the controversy.

She said: "I really plead with you to discipline the people who failed to tell you, or else you should resign - it is not credible that you can stand over a situation like that."

The Government is still examining how to best carry out an investigation into the CervicalCheck controversy.

Vicky Phelan, the woman who exposed the scandal has, has called for an ‘urgent, prompt and public’ Commission of Investigation.

Additional reporting by Stephen McNeice and Jack Quann