Tánaiste apologises to Vicky Phelan for 'shameful' events leading to delay in diagnosis

Tanaiste Simon Coveney has apologised to terminally-ill cancer patient Vicky Phelan and says it was a “shameful” series of events which saw her diagnosed three years after an inaccurate smear test.

The HSE are now reviewing other cases involving 14 women to see if they were also denied information about smear tests which affected their diagnosis, the Dail heard today.

Mr Coveney said the Health Minister Simon Harris had also met HSE directors and the head of the cancer programme to discuss the case of Ms Phelan after her court case this week.

He said he wanted to apologise to the dying mother-of-two and she should have been told in 2014 about what he called was the "false negative" result of the cervical cancer test, which was discovered in an audit.

Changes would be introduced now in screening programmes, the Dail also heard,

Patients would be advised of processes and audits or new findings on tests in future, he said. This would be automatic, the Tanaiste said.

“Other women like her should be told,” he said.

It was also important that confidence in Ireland's cancer check programmes was not undermined, it was added.

Fianna Fail deputy leader Dara Calleary said that the treatment of Ms Phelan had been “despicable and unacceptable”. He added that the approach where her changed test result was withheld was both “cruel and bizarre”.

Mr Calleary is also seeking answers about other audits on cancer screening and whether other women have been affected in similar cases.

In a High Court action and settlement this week, Ms Phelan's lawyers said if the cancerous cells had been detected in 2011 she would have had a simple procedure and would have a 90% chance of survival.

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