Leo Varadkar confirms need for redress scheme in CervicalCheck controversy 2 years ago

Leo Varadkar confirms need for redress scheme in CervicalCheck controversy

He said during the Leaders' Questions "time and space" is needed to figure out the facts.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has confirmed that there will need to be a redress scheme for the women affected by the CervicalCheck controversy.

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Addressing criticism from Opposition leaders, the Taoiseach told the Dáil on 2 May: "We will need a scheme of redress for women whose cancer was missed and should have been detected beyond normal error [and] for women where there was a breach of duty to inform them of the audit results.

"So, we will need to have a scheme of redress. But we will need to establish the facts before we will do that."

He went on to express concern over the Minister for Health, Simon Harris' revelation that a potentially considerable number of cervical cancer cases have not been clinically audited.

Minister Harris estimated that it "may be double" the initial number of the CervicalCheck audits carried out on the previous cervical screening tests on women diagnosed with the cancer between 2008 and 2018. However, the Taoiseach requested "time and space" in order to obtain this information.

"We are working as hard as we can," he stated, before noting that a team of cytologists will be re-examining all of the affected smear tests with this process expected to conclude at the end of May.

Although mentioning that he was not in possession of the total number, he said it is as many as 3,000 women diagnosed during the past 10 years may never have received a smear test.

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Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald leveled particularly heavy criticism against the Taoiseach, while also calling for the removal of Tony O'Brien from his position as HSE Chief.

"You say that this might have been a cock-up. That might be your view, but that's some cock-up that left women without information to which they were entitled, information that affected their life, medical treatment that they might seek, information that was subsequently kept from families when women deceased," McDonald said.

"We know of 17 so far. I daresay there were more. That's quite a cock up, Taoiseach. The witholding of the information wasn't accidental. This was clearly the policy and the strategy of the HSE to keep this information from women and their families."

The Sinn Féin leader later went on to condemn O'Brien, saying: "It is a scandal that Tony O'Brien is left in post for those weeks to sail into the sunset with a large pension and a hefty gratuity, having left a scene of devastation and upset and trauma behind him.

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"If you're serious about leadership on this matter, if you are really, really serious about reassuring the women right across this country, you'd do the first thing that needs to happen and you'd remove that incompetent man from the position that he currently holds."

In response, the Taoiseach said: "There will be a statutory inquiry to investigate whether the allegations that are being made are true.

"I can guarantee you that, but from my point of view, this isn't just about targeting, about individuals and looking for heads to roll."

On Tuesday, the HSE issued an apology, saying: "The HSE and the CervicalCheck programme today reiterated its deepest apologies to women for any worry caused by the evolving situation around the cervical screening programme and its recent audit process.

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"The HSE is keen to provide reassurance to those who may be concerned following the significant media coverage in recent days. With this in mind, the HSE is providing an overview of what has happened to date and advice for women below. Further information and updates for the public will be provided over the coming days on cervicalcheck.ie."