Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

17.09 23 Aug 2019


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There are calls on the Department of Health to explain how it treated a CervicalCheck patient advocate.

A letter from the Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan to Lorraine Walsh on March 13th accused her of making "defamatory and untrue" statements on Twitter and to the media when she criticised the management of the CervicalCheck crisis.

The details of the correspondence emerged today, following a parliamentary question and subsequent Freedom of Information request by Labour's Alan Kelly.

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The letter from Dr Holohan calls on Ms Walsh - who is a member of the CervicalCheck steering committee - to "withdraw the allegations" and "refrain from making further baseless allegations in respect of me and my role".

He says Ms Walsh "can anticipate a very strong response" to any "baseless and untrue" allegations made in public.

In the letter, Dr Holohan suggests Ms Walsh may hold "false beliefs" regarding him, and invites her to consider taking part in mediated discussions.

In her response, Ms Walsh said revelations over the CervicalCheck scandal had been "deeply upsetting" for her.

She said she had found her interactions with the process 'difficult' at times, but welcomed the prospect of a mediated discussion.

'We need an explanation'

Reacting to Dr Holohan's letter, Deputy Kelly argued that Ms Walsh has been treated badly.

He said: "This is the Department of Health who have written this strongly-worded letter to a patient advocate; who has survived cancer; who cannot have children; who has been emotionally very badly affected; and who has done work for thousands of women across Ireland.

"It echoes what Dr [Gabriel] Scally said in his report - that patient advocates were in fact being exploited."

He added: “What we need now is an explanation from the Minister for Health and the Chief Medical Officer about this.

"The Minister should also tell us what he knows about this dispute, and if he agrees with his CMO, when did he find out and does he agree with the findings by Dr Scally about the treatment of patient reps."

Deputy Kelly also suggested a TD should not have to be submit Freedom of Information requests for documents "because the parliamentary questions are not being answered by the department".

Main image: File phot of Lorraine Walsh. Photo: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

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