“What are they trying to hide at this stage?" Vicky Phelan slams delays to Cervical Check inquiry

Ms Phelan says we are no closer to finding out what caused the failures in the screening programme

“What are they trying to hide at this stage?" Vicky Phelan slams delays to Cervical Check inquiry

Vicky Phelan. Photo: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

The woman who exposed the Cervical Check scandal has warned that we are still no closer to knowing what caused the failures in the State cancer screening programme.

The 43-year-old, who is terminally ill, settled a case against a US lab for €2.5m after being wrongly informed that she had the all clear in 2011.

Three years later, an audit found that the results were incorrect.

She was only told about the review in September of last year.

Her case brought the scandal to light, and it emerged that over 200 other women were never told about the audit.

Yesterday it was revealed that 12 more cases have now been uncovered, bringing the number of women affected to 221.

It also emerged yesterday that an independent review of more than 3,000 smear tests that was due to be completed at the end of May has yet to begin.

Dr Gabriel Scally, the man appointed to oversee an inquiry into the scandal has been sharply critical of the delays.

Failures

On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Ms Phelan said the Government has been making promise after promise to the victims – but has failed to deliver.

“There is nothing happening,” she said.

“My case broke at the end of April and we are now at the middle of July practically and we are still nowhere nearer knowing what caused the failures in our screening programme.

“We have the same labs with the same contracts that are still checking women’s slides today – yet nothing has been done to check or inspect on the quality of these.”

Confidence 

She said the continuing delays are continuing to undermine confidence in the screening programme.

“All of these delays mean that people are starting to wonder – myself included – what are they trying to cover up at this stage that they can’t seem to meet these deadlines and everything seems to be pushed back out?”

“Everything is being put through lawyers.

“They have a whole legal team in there looking at everything before they will pass it on to [Dr Gabriel Scally], before they will pass on the files to the women who are looking for them to take their court cases.

“Everything is heavily redacted that Gabriel is getting.

“What are they trying to hide at this stage? That is my question.”

Access

This morning, Dr Scally released a statement saying: “As of today, it appears we now have access to documentation being provided to us by the HSE in a searchable format and with all redactions, apart from those relating to patient confidentiality, removed.

“We are now checking this for completeness.

He said the “very welcome progress” would help in moving the inquiry forward in a “more time efficient manner.”

Review

Ms Phelan said she is worried that the review of the 3,000 smear tests is going to uncover more patients who were given false readings.

"My worry is that we are going to see that there is going to be more women women who were not included in the original sample," she said. 

Noting that she had a couple of months to ‘get her head’ around her situation before her case broke in the media, she offered her sympathies to those who have only discovered they were involved in recent weeks.

“The poor unfortunate women who have found out since my case have really been thrown into this while it has been in the media,” she said.

“It is very difficult because it affected your level of trust in the care that you are getting because you wonder, ‘why was it hidden from me?’

“Why did nobody decide that it was important enough to tell me?

She said there is a support group available for everyone caught up in the scandal.