Two of the victims of the cervical cancer tests scandal have called on 35 senior HSE and Department of Health officials who knew what happened in 2016 to be removed from power while investigations take place.
Limerick mother Vicky Phelan, who has months to live, and Cork father Stephen Teap, whose wife Irene died last year, insisted on the move as they accused officials of a “cover-up” and demanded an immediate “random” audit of all Cervical Check tests.
Speaking during a specially arranged two-hour meeting of the Dáil Public Accounts Committee, two of the public faces of the cervical cancer crisis said they want clear actions to be taken in response to the scandal.
Asked by Labour TD Alan Kelly what specifically this means after he pointed out 122 pages of documents released on Tuesday show 35 senior officials knew of the crisis two years ago, both Ms Phelan and Mr Teap said no one named in the files should remain in power.
“In the same way [former HSE director general] Tony O’Brien is now out of position. It needs to be followed through. If it’s 35 people, so be it. They can’t remain in positions of power. It’s a scandal, people are dead,” said Mr Teap.
“Clearly they’ve proven time and again they’re incapable of passing on information.
“They should be removed, but I wouldn’t be letting them go too far, they still have to answer questions,” he added when asked later if they should remain by Fine Gael TD Peter Burke.
During the same meeting, Ms Phelan and Mr Teap also told PAC members they believe there has been an orchestrated “cover-up” of what happened by HSE and Department of Health officials, and that a culture of “deny” has overtaken patient care.
Asked by Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane about the cover-up claims, Ms Phelan’s solicitor Cian O’Carrol said while it is an “emotive” term, “from the documentation you can clearly see there was a co-ordinated plan to deny people information”.
Similarly, Mr Teap said “information was clearly withheld” from both himself, his wife, his family and his family doctor, and that there is no other explanation as to why.
Ms Phelan and Mr Teap also agreed with Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell they want to see a “random” audit of all Cervical Check smear tests over the past decade set up to find out if more than the 209 women known so far have been affected.
Asked about the issue by Ms O’Connell, Mr Teap said he has been “calling for that” to “alleviate the fear of women in Ireland”.
The meeting heard both cervical cancer victims say that despite Government and HSE promises, there has been next to no support services put in place, and that they were in effect told what happened “and then nothing, goodbye”.
Ms Phelan said the sole reason she and other victims are telling their stories is to ensure “accountability, not revenge”, adding:
“If I die, I do not want it to be in vain.”
Meanwhile, President Michael D Higgins has described his meeting with mother of five Emma Mhic Mhathúna near her home in west Kerry last night as “valuable and wonderful”.
The President and his wife Sabina met Ms Mhic Mhathúna and her five children at O’Gorman’s guesthouse near Muiríoch.
President Higgins and his wife met privately with the 37-year old, whose condition was missed in the current cervical cancer controversy.
In Tralee on Monday, 400 people turned out in a show of support with Ms Mhic Mhathúna.
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