Midwife wants HSE settlement linked to life-prolonging drug

Oonagh Gallagher, sister of terminally ill midwife Philomena Canning, and her daughter, Erin Gallagher, 8, with supporters of Ms Canning outside Leinster House, where a petition was delivered to Health Minister Simon Harris, calling on him to instruct the HSE to settle Ms Canning’s court case. Picture: Gareth Chaney / Collins

The HSE has offered to settle a legal action being taken by terminally-ill midwife Philomena Canning, but she has insisted that the settlement be linked to access to the cancer drug Pembro.

Ms Canning’s plight was highlighted by the Irish Examiner last week when she said she felt compelled to speak out about her condition as she wanted an expedient settlement from the HSE.

She launched an action against the HSE in 2015 after it emerged she had been wrongfully suspended from her practice the previous year.

The HSE offered a settlement in 2015 but Ms Canning refused it on the basis that she wanted a court hearing over the issues which had given rise to her suspension. She changed her position in recent weeks following her diagnosis on the basis that she needed money to access Pembro in an attempt to prolong her life.

In the Dáil yesterday, the Taoiseach said it was his understanding that a settlement had been offered to her. However, the Irish Examiner understands that Ms Canning insisted that any settlement be linked to the provision to Pembro to her. At the time of going to print, the HSE had not yet agreed to this condition.

The drug has been available for sufferers of cervical cancer on the public health system since January following campaigning by Vicky Phelan and others. However, Ms Canning is suffering from ovarian cancer and is therefore not entitled to Pembro on the public system.

A large crowd gathered at the gates of Leinster House yesterday in a protest rally for Ms Canning at which it was revealed that a petition of 5,500 signatures had been collected since last week urging the HSE and the Minister for Health to settle the action immediately.

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