Budgets allocated for the Health Service Executive (HSE) are unaffected by financial settlements paid out in cases of alleged negligence brought against the HSE, the solicitor for Vicky Phelan has said.
Cian O’Carroll said that once a case is brought against the HSE, it is passed over to the State Claims Agency.
Expressing concern that this may be leading to less focus on patient health, Mr O’Carroll said: “The running of (cases) and litigation consequences is handled by the State Claims Agency and a group within that called the Clinical Indemnity Scheme - and this is at the heart of the problem - because the HSE budget is unaffected by the consequences of negligence.”
“So, when you read a story in the newspaper about some family affected by a birth injury case, or a surgical negligence case, or whatever it is, none of the costs, either in terms of compensation or legal costs and expenses, falls back on the HSE.”
“I think as a consequence of that, they (the HSE) are not as focussed as they might otherwise be on patient health, as a priority,” he told the Limerick Today programme on local radio station Limerick’s Live 95FM.
Mr O’Carroll said women caught up in the CervicalCheck cancer smear test scandal and who may ultimately engage with a redress scheme, should not be legally prevented from sharing their stories in public.
It would be "politically convenient to have a redress scheme which gags anybody who comes before it, so the womens stories cant be told; so that the level of compensation isn't known, so that one woman can't learn from the experience of another," he said.
The Government is to establish a non-statutory inquiry to provide immediate answers to the controversy before deciding if a commission of investigation is required.
The “scoping” enquiry should be “useful” however, it would be “certainly politically convenient” if “a strict commission of investigation is held in private”," added Mr O'Carroll.
"I'm not against a redress scheme as being part of the menu of options open to people, because there may be people who want to maintain a strict level of privacy and confidentiality, but it should not be compulsory," he said.
Mr O’Carroll told presenter Joe Nash he fully believes there was a “cover up” by parties involved in handling the results of women's cervical cancer smear tests.
“I'm careful enough with my words, and the simple fact that we know from the then clinical director of CervicalCheck that, within the HSE there was a consideration, a process, through which how they tried to work out through 2015 and 2016, how they were going to communicate this problem of missed (smear test) results, to doctors. And, when they finally came to a decision on how to deal with it, they wrote a document that told doctors, where the patient has died, simply put the record on their file.”
“Quite apart from the other prevarication, on whether patients should be told, who were living but were being treated for cancer - that line alone tells you this was a cover up…don't tell their families. And that is the decision that I describe as disgusting.”
“It is so unfair that, we have this crisis where up to a million people, who have had smears over the last three years, are left in a position of complete uncertainty about their own health.”