07/12/2019 - 06:00
By Elaine Loughlin
The Department of Health has blocked a €2,000 payment to the latest group of 250 women affected by the CervicalCheck scandal, who were added in the wake of this week’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) report.
Correspondence from the Health Service Executive (HSE) to patient advocates, seen by the Irish Examiner, makes it clear that the promised payment will not be made available to them.
After the recommendation of Gabriel Scally, the Government agreed in 2018 to provide immediate ex-gratia payments to each woman impacted by the CervicalCheck scandal. Those caught up in the controversy were also given other supports including a medical card.
The HSE letter states the women and families added after the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists review “are clearly covered by the provisions of the Government decision in relation to the package of supports but this does not include the €2,000 ex-gratia payment”.
CervicalCheck patient advocates Lorraine Walsh and Stephen Teap have now written to Health Minister Simon Harris calling on him to review this decision, stating many families are under huge financial distress and that all women should be treated equally.
Ms Walsh said: “It needs to be addressed quickly because these women and families are reeling from this news and they need to know they are being supported equally and not in a different way to others. These women should be treated the same, They shouldn’t be discriminated against because they were added to this group in a different way.”
Ms Walsh, who resigned from the CervicalCheck steering group after voicing concern over the review, said the €2,000 payment was raised with Mr Harris last May and the minister had promised that all additional women would receive it.
“It turns out now and we have got official notification that they won’t be paying out that €2,000 ex-gratia payment as part of the package,” said Mr Teap. “They are going to give them a medical card but they won’t be giving the full package of support which they said they would.”
A spokeswoman for Mr Harris said the 221+ group had brought the request to the minister’s attention and he has asked the department to examine it. The review published last Tuesday found for 159 women, including 12 who have died, there were “missed opportunities” to prevent or diagnose their cancer earlier.
It also emerged batches of women’s slides were returned to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists by the HSE due to discrepancies with the data; there were issues on the labelling of slides; and, in some cases, women got two different sets of results.
The advocates have called on the Government to offer an independent individual review of cases to any woman who may now want it.
“The Government needs to support this,” said Mr Teap. “It is no woman’s fault that they are in this debacle.”