Smear test probe gets papers from HSE

The HSE has finally supplied the head of the CervicalCheck probe with the information he needs to conduct his inquiry two months after he was appointed to the job.

Gabriel Scally issued a statement yesterday saying: “It appears we now have access to documentation being provided to us by the HSE in a searchable format and with all redactions, apart from those relating to patient confidentiality, removed.

“We are now checking this for completeness.

“This is very welcome progress and will assist us in moving forward with our inquiry in a more time efficient manner.”

Dr Scally said he wanted to acknowledge “the co-operation of all the HSE staff who have assisted in making this information available”.

His statement followed a day of tense exchanges in the Dáil where Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said it was “not acceptable” that Dr Scally’s work was still being hampered by the HSE.

In a progress report on June 12, Dr Scally expressed his deep frustration at delays in accessing documentation and at being unable to search it electronically, as many of the documents were scans.

Vicky Phelan, the woman whose case uncovered the CervicalCheck scandal, said on Thursday that Dr Scally was still waiting to receive 2,000 files and much of what he had received was “heavily redacted”. She said the HSE was having everything legalled before handing it over.

Yesterday, Ms Phelan said it was “good to see that Gabriel is finally getting co-operation”, but “awful that this had to be highlighted in the media in order for it to happen”.

Stephen Teap, whose wife Irene was twice given incorrect smear test results and subsequently died of cervical cancer, echoed Ms Phelan’s sentiments.

“It took too long, and it had to be made public,” said Mr Teap. “It seems to be how the HSE operates, this repetitive system of delays.”

Mr Teap is currently preparing a legal case to sue for the failings that led to his wife’s death.

“I am gathering information but it has been slow,” he said.

“I am in the process of having slides collected and reviewed. I am hoping there won’t be a problem getting my hands on those slides.”

Ms Teap, from Carrigaline, Co Cork, was diagnosed with stage two cancer in 2015 and died aged 35 on July 26 last year, leaving behind two young sons, after two false negative tests in 2010 and 2013.

Ms Phelan, a mother of two from Limerick, received a false negative test after she went for a cervical smear test in 2011.

Three years later, she was diagnosed with cancer. However, she went public with her experience in April after being awarded €2.5m in damages in the High Court.

Since then, it has emerged at least 220 other women had smears misread, of whom at least 17 died.

Yesterday the Department of Health confirmed that 149 women had received a €2,000 ex gratia payment, as was recommended in the Scally report.

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