Government accused of failing to help women affected by CervicalCheck scandal

Women and families affected by the cervical cancer scandal have to borrow money and rely on “the good faith of solicitors” to fight for access to medical records as supports promised by the Government have not yet materialised.

Fianna Fáil health spokesman Stephen Donnelly revealed the situation yesterday, saying it was entirely unacceptable that there are failures to help victims five weeks after the tests crises emerged.

During leaders’ questions in the Dáil, Mr Donnelly said despite Taoiseach Leo Varadkar promising, on May 11, that medical cards, prescriptions, childcare, and counselling help would be provided, the offer of supports had not happened.

Earlier, speaking on RTÉ radio programme Today with Sean O’Rourke, Stephen Teap, widower of Cork woman Irene Teap, said his family is yet to receive any supports.

Mr Donnelly said victims without supports have to borrow money as promised State help had not arrived.

“Women are borrowing money to get to healthcare appointments, on the other side of the country,” he said. 

“They are relying on the good faith of solicitors to take legal advice.

“One man has been trying, without any success, to get access to his wife’s medical records. 

"There has been no central point of contact, no counselling, no multidisciplinary teams put in place, and no financial support.

“One woman involved told me this morning that what there is is fear, anger, and confusion. Five weeks on from when this story broke, what supports have been put in place for the 209 women at the centre of this scandal?

“How many of these women have met with the liaison officer? How many of the promised individual support packages have been put in place.

“After Cabinet on May 11, the Taoiseach said they would provide care and support. 

"The Minister for Health had said ‘what they need is not platitudes, they need actions, and I am determined we are going to deliver those actions’.

“There was great talk from the Government of medical cards, prescriptions, childcare, and counselling, but it has not happened,” said Mr Donnelly.

Demonstrators outside Leinster House this week (Brian Lawless/PA)

Tánaiste Simon Coveney said ministers were working “to ensure everything that has been promised is properly followed through on”.

He said “the Department of Health and the Government are determined to prioritise support for women who are in this difficult, exposed and pressurised situation” and said all supports will be provided.

Meanwhile, the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee is to haul senior HSE officials into a further meeting in a fortnight after it emerged that there were alleged inaccuracies over what the HSE claimed it had told the State Claims Agency about the 209 affected families.

CervicalCheck’s programme manager, John Gleeson, last week said the HSE did not tell the State Claims Agency all women were informed last year.

Correspondence to the committee yesterday said Mr Gleeson told the State Claims Agency himself in April last year, a matter he previously denied.

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