HSE urged to release contracts of US smear test labs

The HSE will be urged today to release the full contracts of the US laboratories at the centre of the cervical cancer tests scandal amid ongoing and disputed claims that access to key records is being covered up.

The Dáil public accounts committee will insist on the move at an internal meeting this morning after giving the HSE until the end of this week to make the records available to them.

In a lengthy meeting last week, PAC members repeatedly rounded on acting HSE director general John Connaghan and his officials over the failure to release the contracts immediately to the independent inquiry examining the scandal.

In particular, Labour TD Alan Kelly, Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy, Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane, and unaligned Independent TD Catherine Connolly noted independent inquiry chair Dr Gabriel Scally’s concerns that access to a range of files has been delayed.

While Mr Connaghan insisted there was no deliberate delay in releasing records, he said there has been some difficulty in accessing certain files and that in other cases requests for the documents came at later stages than initial queries.

The PAC said while they understood the difficulty in accessing some files, it is essential the key contracts between the State and the US laboratories over the outsourcing of cervical cancer test screening are released immediately.

Urging the publication of the contracts, they gave a deadline of the end of this week to provide the information, a move which Mr Connaghan said would take place.

At the time of going to press, the PAC has yet to receive the laboratory contracts.

And as such, the PAC is expected to insist this morning the documents are made available as a matter of urgency.

The call will be made despite HSE assistant national director for parliamentary issues Ray Mitchell writing to the PAC in recent days to repeat that Mr Connaghan is open to allowing access to all files relating to the cervical cancer tests scandal.

In a formal statement to the PAC in recent days, Mr Mitchell repeated Mr Connaghan’s comments last week that he is open to allowing access to the documents.

Explaining a meeting has already taken place with Dr Scally to provide full access to all documents, Mr Mitchell said the HSE is currently working on how to give Dr Scally and his officials full access to their systems.

Contact was made with Dr Scally and he has raised a number of questions on how it might work, and we are examining these and will be reverting to him on them,” Mr Mitchell said.

Meanwhile, the HSE has also written to the PAC to confirm the US laboratory contracts make it clear the labs and not the State are responsible for any test errors.

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