The country’s Chief Medical Officer has vowed to ensure the fallout from faulty silicone breast implants affecting at least 1,500 women costs the taxpayer nothing.
Dr Tony Holohan said the Irish Medicines Board (IMB) would make it a priority to force the three clinics that used the industrial-grade gel to take financial responsibility.
He insisted the organisations have a duty of care to the women who received the controversial implants not knowing they were defective.
“Our primary efforts are to ensure that the three centres concerned do not step back from what their basic responsibilities are,” said Dr Holohan during a grilling from the Joint Committee on Health and Children today.
It first emerged two years ago that breast implants created by French firm Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) were defective and that they were being withdrawn from use.
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 no health 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 it has not committed itself to.
Dr Holohan said he has contacted all three clinics concerned and received a generally positive response from the first two – Clane Hospital in Co Kildare and Shandon Street Hospital in Co Cork.
However, he said the third – Harley Medical Group – had been slow to respond to his correspondence and that 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.
He said all costs should be their responsibility.
“The first principle behind what we have been doing is that the hospitals fulfil their duty of care,” said Dr Holohan.
“Our second concern is that taxpayers are protected.”
The French firm that made the implants has since gone out of business. It is now being investigated for fraud.