O’Connell urges smear tests amid Phelan fallout

Fine Gael TD and pharmacist Kate O’Connell has said she booked herself a smear test in the wake of the Vicky Phelan case, and encouraged other women to do the same.

Speaking yesterday at the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) hearing, Ms O’Connell spoke of her concern that the missed-diagnosis scandal could lead to women choosing not to get tested.

She said the public must have confidence in the system and stated clearly that the scandal gave her reason to get checked.

“Clearly there was a systems failure here,” she said.

“The tragedy here if things did not happen, as they appear not to have happened in the appropriate time frame, the key thing with cervical cancer is the three, six and nine years.

"The disease progresses quickly and it is in young women and it tends to be aggressive and it tends not to be diagnosed early.”

She said because of the misdiagnosis, she felt it wise to have a smear booked with her GP.

“I myself booked in an additional check this morning because people need to have confidence in the system. It is very important,” she added.

The committee is to investigate any potential breach in policy and financial loss to the taxpayer because of the mishandling of the Vicky Phelan case.

The Dáil’s spending watchdog is to write to the HSE, the Department of Health, and to the sub-contractor Cervical Check to examine what happened in the Phelan case.

Sinn Féin’s David Cullinane called for the committee to examine any failure in process and members agreed.

“This was a clear breach in process but doctors were told, there was a circular, which said clinicians must use their judgement in cases where it is clear that discussions of the outcomes could do more harm than good. I find that extraordinary, I really do,” he said.

“We had an examination around the Grace case and that was about process and procedure,” he added.

Independent PAC member Catherine Murphy echoed the points made by Ms O’Connell. “

We have talked about this on numerous occasions but we are supposed to be moving to an open disclosure culture.

“We have a massive contingent liability and I know we are to discuss this with the HSE but the slowness of all of this needs to be tackled. This poor woman had to go through the courts system rather than a wrong being admitted,” she said.

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