The three private hospital groups who fitted faulty breast implants in Irish women are to be hauled before the Oireachtas Health Committee to explain their response to the crisis.
The cross-party group confirmed the move after Department of Health chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan insisted the fallout from the “fraud” by a French cosmetics company will cost taxpayers nothing.
Dr Holohan said he has contacted all three clinics concerned and received agenerally positive response from the first two — Clane Hospital in Co Kildare and Shandon Street Hospital in Cork City.
However, he said the third — Harley Medical Group — had been slow to respond to his correspondence and he has only recently managed to receive assurances from bosses that they will endeavour to fulfil their obligations to their former patients.
Dr Holohan said the first two hospitals have already dealt with up to 80 patients “in surgical terms” and have many more on their books.
But he said the most important thing in the immediate future is that the clinics give the women an opportunity to speak to a surgeon and have their questions answered.
Of the 1,500 women in Ireland believed to have had them implanted over the last 10 years, 138 have experienced a rupture – 35 of whom had ruptures in both breasts.
The implants were found to have contained industrial-grade silicone, which is used to stuff mattresses, and in many cases ruptured.
While studies have since found that the industrial-grade silicone poses nohealth risks, the women have been advised to have the objects removed.
It is estimated that “explantation” for every woman concerned would cost the Department of Health €10m — funding to which it has not committed itself.
Under questioning from committee members, Dr Holohan, who is meeting with the Irish PIP Action Group later today to discuss the issue, accepted that until the Licensing of Health Facilities Bill is finalised later this year there is little that can be done to prevent a repeat situation.
However, he added that Irish taxpayers will under no circumstances be asked to pick up any potential compensation or additional surgery bills caused by what happened. “Our primary efforts are to ensure the three centres concerned do not step back from what their basic responsibilities are.”
As a result of the concerns, committee chair and Fine Gael Cork South Central TD Jerry Buttimer said the cross-party body will ask the hospitals involved to attend for questioning.
The head of the French firm has been arrested on charges of fraud and the company has shut down.
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