The Government is to consider funding a further independent review for women involved in the CervicalCheck scandal after a key patient advocate expressed no confidence in the process.
Campaigner Lorraine Walsh has now resigned from the CervicalCheck steering committee and has hit out at a review carried out by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), which was published this week.
Ms Walsh, herself a the victim of misread smears, revealed that RCOG supplied her with two different sets of results of her own smears over a 24-hour period in October.
“I wish I could tell the women of Ireland I had confidence in this report, but I absolutely don’t,” she said.
Labour’s Alan Kelly told the Dáil that Ms Walsh had tried to contact health minister Simon Harris three times in September and October to flag her concerns about the RCOG review.
“He never contacted her until, literally, an hour after he found out she had resigned,” Mr Kelly said.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar admitted that “some errors” were made during the process of the RCOG audit, but he claimed they were flagged at the time and he was advised that they were dealt with.
He also revealed that he had been aware of Ms Walsh’s resignation since the end of October.
Mr Kelly described Ms Walsh as one of the “most formidable people I have ever met in my life” and said he wanted to pose a number of questions to the Taoiseach on her behalf.
Mr Kelly said many women had been told by RCOG that their reports were “concurrent”, despite the fact that slides had not been available or were lost. He suggested these results should have been instead categorised as ‘unknown’.
“How many women whose slides were lost or unavailable have been told as part of the RCOG review that their reports were concurrent when we do not actually know, and they should be categorised as unknown?” he asked the Taoiseach.
The Tipperary TD also asked if the Government would provide those women with the option of having an independent reading of their cases, given the significant discrepancies in the RCOG review.
There is a request that for the women who were part of this review, particularly those who have questions as regards what was in the report, the State would pay for an independent review of their cases, at a cost of approximately €3,000 per case.
“I do not foresee there being a huge number of women involved and, thus, there should not be a huge cost to the State. Will the Taoiseach consider the request?” he asked.
The Taoiseach said he would look at the possibility of an independent report.
Mr Varadkar added that he would also give consideration to the request that Dr Gabriel Scally would examine the RCOG review and give his opinion on it.