The Government has ruled out a redress scheme for women injured after vaginal mesh implants despite such surgeries being stopped and a year passing since a report into cases.
Despite Health Minister Simon Harris receiving recommendations a year ago for guidance on the use of such implants and a care path for injured patients, decisions are still pending. Women have been left in limbo over the horrific impact of the implants on their bodies. Fianna Fáil now wants a full review of cases and any State care involved.
Surgical mesh is used to treat pelvic organ prolapse as well as urinary incontinence. The material remains in the body as a permanent implant. Devices have caused organ and spinal chord damage and torn tissue. Their use has triggered class actions in the UK and 100,000 lawsuits in the US.
Fianna Fáil TD Stephen Donnelly has asked Mr Harris if he will identify a pathway to care for women suffering side effects.
A Department of Health report, published in November 2018, concluded that the use of mesh devices caused severe complications in a minority of women. The chief medical officer’s report recommended the development of clinical guidance using the implants and a timely pathway to care for patients injured from devices.
The HSE was asked to pause all mesh procedures pending national guidelines. That freeze on implants remains. Despite the HSE setting up a follow-up advisory group, no decisions have been made by health authorities or the minister.
Responding to a Dáil parliamentary question, Mr Harris said:
Pending the completion of this work, I am informed that work to identify and progress service options for women with immediate or urgent needs is nearing completion.
He said he expects some progress in the coming weeks. He also intends to meet with Mesh Survivors Ireland. Nonetheless, in advance of HSE conclusions on care, Mr Harris has ruled out any financial compensation scheme for them.
“Mesh devices are regulated medical devices and the overall risk benefit profile associated with their use is considered positive. There is no basis for the introduction of a general redress scheme for women who have suffered mesh complications,” he added in the Dáil reply.
However, the decision not to arrange a financial fund for women and the year-long delay in setting out guidelines for their care has angered patients. Fianna Fáil wants a full review and audit of surgeries involved.
Mr Donnelly said: “No discussion of vaginal mesh should take place without first acknowledging the severe and sincere pain and suffering of the many women, and don’t forget men, who say they’ve been injured by the implants.
"Every day I speak to patients who are dealing with unimaginable indignities like incontinence, intimate scarring and vaginal shrinkage.”“