Bereaved husband considering legal action says HSE boss must go

The husband of a woman who was twice given incorrect smear test results and subsequently died of cervical cancer has called for HSE boss Tony O’Brien to be sacked or resign — and has not ruled out suing the State for what happened.

Stephen Teap added his voice to the quit calls as the HSE confirmed Mr O’Brien will leave on July 1, four weeks earlier than planned — but point blank refused to reveal his pension and pay-off entitlements.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Mr Teap said his wife Irene, from Carrigaline, Co Cork, was diagnosed with stage two cancer in 2015 and died on July 26 last year, leaving behind two young sons, after two false negative tests in 2010 and 2013.

The widower, a corporate sales manager at Volvo Cars, said regardless of who is personally responsible Mr O’Brien should step down with immediate effect.

“I want Tony O’Brien gone and to help get rid of the panic that’s out there. Tony O’Brien cannot remain on while an investigation into Cervical Check takes place,” said Mr Teap.

He said this was because, as Mr O’Brien previously worked for the cancer screening programme and knows how to find answers, “he also knows the places to avoid if he doesn’t want answers”.

The widower made the comments as it emerged Mr O’Brien is to quit four weeks earlier than planned amid a growing backlash from cervical cancer tests scandal victims, opposition politicians and at least one Government TD.

Despite refusing to say how much money the HSE director general will receive in his pension and pay-off package, claiming it would “require an actuarial assessment”, the HSE confirmed yesterday Mr O’Brien will leave on July 1.

The decision is because Mr O’Brien still has four weeks of holiday entitlements, with Government sources insisting he was not encouraged to use them to fast-track his departure.

Stephen Teap says he wants a public inquiry into his wife’s death, but not one that drags on for years.

Meanwhile, the Dáil is set to debate a Sinn Féin no confidence motion in Mr O’Brien as part of an amendment to a wider health motion tomorrow evening, with growing suggestions Fianna Fáil will back the quit call.

Despite Fine Gael TD and junior minister for mental health Jim Daly describing the demand as “knee-jerk” and Independent Alliance junior minister for skills John Halligan saying there is no point in “looking for a head or a sacrificial lamb”, Fine Gael TD Fergus O’Dowd said “it’s too grave for him not to step down”.

And the pressure grew further, as Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness yesterday told RTE Radio’s This Week programme “Tony O’Brien should resign with immediate effect” — backing a similar demand from party health spokesman Stephen Donnelly on Friday.

In another fast-moving day in the cancer tests scandal, it also emerged:

  • 11 of the 209 women known to be affected by the cervical cancer tests scandal have yet to be told;
  • Department of Health sources said a patient advocate may be included in any new HSE board in January;
  • The Irish Patients Association, the Irish Cancer Society and the Marie Keating Foundation are considering holding public meetings with potential cervical cancer tests victims across the country;
  • Just 1,920 of the 7,521 call back requests to the HSE’s emergency helpline have been returned to date due to the number of calls.

Health Minister Simon Harris is also expected to bring a series of cervical cancer tests scandal memos to cabinet tomorrow, including the exact terms of reference for the month-long scoping exercise which will decide if a commission of investigation is needed.

Mr Harris will also bring forward long-flagged mandatory open disclosure laws, in addition to discussing exactly how a redress compensation scheme could operate and whether the State or the US lab involved is liable.

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Bereaved husband considering legal action

The husband of a woman who was twice given incorrect smear test results and subsequently died of cervical cancer is considering legal action.

Stephen Teap said he has consulted a medical negligence legal firm since learning last week that his wife, Irene Teap, was twice given false negatives in 2010, and 2013, in relation to smears conducted by CervicalCheck.

Mrs Teap, from Carrigaline, Co Cork, was diagnosed with stage two cancer in 2015 and died on July 26 last year, leaving behind two young sons.

Mr Teap also revealed how he was sent on his way with no supports offered after he attended a meeting last Wednesday with his wife’s gynaecologist.

“Nothing was offered to me,” he said. “It was a case of good luck and goodbye. There was no offer of counselling or any support services.

I have a three-year-old at home who doesn’t understand why his mum is not there. He was sick for the last few days and he was looking for her.

“There is no manual on how to deal with children’s grief when you are trying to deal with your own.”

Mr Teap, a corporate sales manager at Volvo Cars, also called for HSE chief executive officer Tony O’Brien to step down with immediate effect.

“The purpose of my speaking out is that I want Tony O’Brien gone and to help get rid of the panic that’s out there,” he said.

“Tony O’Brien cannot remain on while an investigation into CervicalCheck takes place.”

Mr Teap said this was because while he previously worked for the cancer screening programme and was in a position to know how to find answers, at the same time “he knows the places to avoid if he doesn’t want answers”.

Mr Teap also called on the Government to show that it has the CervicalCheck scandal under control.

He said it was “never going to be able to do that as long as Tony O’Brien is there”, that he had “shown a lack of leadership... if you can’t take responsibility for the people you lead and who report into you”.

“And if they can’t bring it under control, maybe they are the ones that need to go,” he said.

Mr Teap said he favours a public inquiry into the scandal, but not one that drags on for years, as several tribunals have.

He said the timeframe could be addressed in the terms of reference for the inquiry.

“An element of this scandal is the cover-up, so we can’t have an inquiry behind closed doors,” said Mr Teap.

Following a phone call from the HSE last Tuesday, Mr Teap discovered that his wife was one of the 17 women to receive incorrect smear test results — and who have since died.

Fifteen of the women were not told that an audit had found earlier smears had erroneously recorded false negative results.

At a meeting in St Finbarr’s Hospital in Cork last Wednesday, Mr Teap asked his wife’s consultant why she had not been told of the errors. He was told it was because by the time the doctor found out, his wife had only weeks to live.

Mr Teap said the doctor apologised for not passing on the information.


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