herald

Sunday 23 September 2018

'CervicalCheck scandal medics should say sorry to victims' faces' - Leo

Dr Gabriel Scally. Photo: Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney
Dr Gabriel Scally. Photo: Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said doctors who kept information from women affected by the cervical cancer scandal should apologise in person.

He also said he agreed with the finding by Dr Gabriel Scally in his report that some of the treatment of women "bordered on misogyny".

Mr Varadkar said there must be "grace, compassion and open disclosure" in the health service.

He said legislation for mandatory disclosure alone would not bring this about, adding that a voluntary open disclosure policy was already in place and was "botched" in the cervical cancer cases.

There needs to be cultural change and training for staff on how to break bad news similar to that provided to younger medical professionals, the Taoiseach said.

"There's certainly a degree of misogyny, there is an attitude among some healthcare professionals, and it's a very old-fashioned attitude, that if something bad has happened it's OK not to tell the patient because it wouldn't make a difference anyway and it might just upset them more," he said.

Mr Varadkar said the Government and the HSE had already apologised to the women affected.

Stephen Teap, whose wife Irene died of cervical cancer, said some medics felt they had "the authority to do whatever they want" and that "it's their opinion, whatever they want to do, goes".

Mr Varadkar said doctors, nurses and midwives were "some of the best, most-dedicated, most compassionate and hardest-working people in the country" and he would not offer "some sort of blanket condemnation".

Aftermath

Free repeat smear tests will be available until the end of the year despite the Scally report finding no quality issues with labs used to read samples.

Repeat testing for every woman was offered by the Government in the immediate aftermath of the scandal emerging and has heaped pressure on the system.

Speaking after the publication of Dr Scally's report, Health Minister Simon Harris said there would be no "knee-jerk" reaction.

However, when asked if the decision to extend free repeat smears was a knee-jerk move, a spokeswoman for the minister said it was a genuine response to women who might be feeling concerned.

"It was one of the key questions being raised on the helpline and doctors also raised it with the minister," she said.

"The level of increased uptake shows that many women did wish to get the reassurance of a repeat smear.

"The minister believes a key question answered by Dr Scally is that women can now have confidence that the labs being used are up to standard."

Between May and July, more than 100,000 tests were carried out, up 46pc on the same period last year, but it is not clear how many were repeat tests.

A small number will have to be repeated as samples expired and could not be safely read.

As of July, all slides are being transferred in the six-week time-frame necessary for screening, the HSE said.

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