HSE chief denies officials are delaying Scally inquiry

Interim HSE director general John Connaghan

The HSE’s interim director general denies that officials are trying to delay the Scally cervical cancer tests inquiry by failing to provide searchable records, amid growing fears that the State investigation is being blocked.

Interim director general John Connaghan issued the staunch HSE defence as he said electronic, searchable versions of the records were always available and as officials said that laboratory contracts key to the scandal will be released next week.

Speaking as another senior HSE official faced calls to resign after it emerged that he wrongly told politicians he never told the State Claims Agency all women affected were informed of what happened last year, Mr Connaghan said he wants all files to be made available to Gabriel Scally’s investigation.

Mr Connaghan said that due to “technical limitations”, 4,000 documents for the inquiry which could have been sent electronically, thereby making them searchable, were instead printed out and scanned, leading to a backlash over the move.

Mr Connaghan said the move could not be avoided due to the technical “barrier”.

However, he was immediately criticised by Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell, who said “there was a different kind of barrier — a human barrier”.

Facing questions from Labour TD Alan Kelly, Mr Connaghan said that due to the concerns raised by Dr Scally over accessing files he met with the head of the State inquiry yesterday and committed to providing all documents within 30 days.

Asked specifically what this includes amid claims from Mr Kelly that “if there was ever a row of events that symbolise the arse-covering in the HSE, it is this [the cervical cancer tests crisis]”, Mr Connaghan said that the file access will include the key contracts given to US laboratories which will be made public next week.

Meanwhile, another senior HSE official is facing calls to resign over the tests scandal after admitting that he wrongly told politicians last month that he never told the State Claims Agency that all women affected were told of what happened.

Mr Gleeson yesterday admitted that what he told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was incorrect, adding that he believed the initial question was about “another meeting I wasn’t involved in” and that “I certainly did not intend to create any confusion”.

However, Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane said it is clear Mr Gleeson’s position is untenable, and directly asking the HSE official if he should now resign.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said the incorrect records provided to the PAC in recent weeks means it is now fair to ask “how can we trust any information” given to the cross-party group by the HSE.

Similarly, Ms O’Connell said: “I just wonder what is the point of all of you” in senior HSE positions, adding: “I just think the whole lot of you should be sent packing.”

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