A TD has demanded that the €2,000 ex-gratia payment to over 159 women affected by the CervicalCheck controversy be paid immediately.
The call came after campaigner Stephen Teap told the Oireachtas health committee that despite recent promises from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, the payment has not been made.
Fianna Fáil health spokesman Stephen Donnelly has called for action on the payment in the next 24 hours.
Commenting as the health committee met to discuss the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) CervicalCheck review, Mr Donnelly said: “This payment was announced a week ago in response to the finding of the RCOG review, which found that opportunities had been missed to prevent or diagnose cancer earlier in 159 women.
“The Minister for Health then promised that the HSE would write to the women ‘shortly’ confirming the payment. The minister needs to answer what he meant when he said ‘shortly’.
“In the grand scheme of the HSE black-hole budget, this is not a large amount of money — but to each of the women affected, it is. Many of them incurred costs of additional private tests and this is a small effort to try and offset some of the costs.
It can’t wait, and the women shouldn’t be made wait. I am calling on Minister Harris to take action immediately and get that payment to the women.
Mr Teap told the committee that a cancer diagnosis puts huge financial strain on families and that Dr Gabriel Scally, who carried out the scoping inquiry into CervicalCheck had recommended that each woman impacted by the scandal be granted payment.
He also called for funding to be put in place to allow for independent reviews into cervical screening results.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: "Minister Harris has confirmed the payment will be made. He made that clear in correspondence to Mr Teap earlier this week."
Meanwhile, a cervical cancer survivor said that the Department of Health “threatened” and “bullied” her after she asked “hard questions” about catastrophic failings in the cervical cancer screening process.
CervicalCheck campaigner Lorraine Walsh said that her concerns over a review of smear slides were ignored which compelled her to resign from the steering committee set up to oversee changes in CervicalCheck earlier this month.
Speaking at the Oireachtas Health Committee, Ms Walsh said: “People often forget what is said, but you don’t forget how you are treated; eventually I had enough of being treated like I was not worthy and did not matter so I removed myself, my resilience could no longer sustain the pressure.
“A culmination of feeling irrelevant, the inaccuracies in the RCOG reports I was aware of from HSE, women contacting me directly regarding inaccuracies, and the amount of time I felt I was wasting not being listened to forced me to resign, an act I did not take lightly but had to for my conscience.”
The UK’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) published its review findings earlier this month into this country’s CervicalCheck controversy.
The RCOG review found 159 “missed opportunities” to prevent or diagnose cancer. These included 12 women who died in circumstances where there was a missed opportunity to prevent or diagnose their cancer at an earlier stage.
It was also discovered that some of the women’s slides were returned to RCOG following a number of discrepancies.
Ms Walsh told the Health Committee that her own experience has not been positive or reassuring in seeking the truth in relation to RCOG.
She told the committee that on October 2 she was contacted by the HSE and told that, following the return of the slides from RCOG to the labs, the lab had identified a mislabelling issue with three women’s slides —the labels had been removed and replaced on the incorrect slides.
She said: “Two of the three women involved with this mislabelling were (campaigner) Vicky Phelan and I.
“On October 3, I attended a CervicalCheck steering committee in the Department of Health where I voiced my concerns in relation to verification of reports and their quality assurance process involved in the checking of reports before releasing,” she said.
Meanwhile, women were feeding back to me that the reports they were receiving still contained inaccurate information.
“I was placated and informed there was no need for any concern and also informed they did not like my tone. I knew what that meant, so I retreated to a position of silence.
“I became the victim of my own concerns, I voiced my concerns to the most senior people in our health system but it would seem that women are still not being listened to."