CervicalCheck report author fears more women could be impacted by crisis

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The author of a report into the Irish cervical cancer screening controversy has raised fears that more women could be affected by the cancer crisis.

Dr Gabriel Scally said he had serious issues with the flawed system and the set of criteria used by the Health Service Executive (HSE) to identify the 221 women affected and said he could not be confident that more women had not been impacted.

The author was questioned on the findings of his scoping report into the scandal at a parliamentary committee meeting on Wednesday, the same day as one of the most high-profile women affected by the crisis was laid to rest.

Ms Mhic Mhathuna, 37, who died on Sunday
Ms Mhic Mhathuna, 37, died on Sunday (Brian Lawless/PA)

A minute’s silence was held at the meeting as a mark of respect for Ms Mhic Mhathuna and the other women screened through CervicalCheck who had received incorrect smear test results.

The 37-year-old mother died on Sunday. The flag over Government Buildings in Dublin flew at half-mast on Wednesday afternoon as Ms Mhic Mhathuna’s funeral was due to pass by parliament, Government Buildings and the Department of Health.

Questions were raised at the meeting by Dr Scally and scoping inquiry team member Dr Karin Denton over the 18-month cut-off point chosen by the HSE for the clinical audit.

Dr Denton said: “I’m not yet assured of the exact criteria of identifying those 221 women. They were certainly women who had a diagnosis altered on review but whether there were more who had a diagnosis altered in review, but it wasn’t held to have made any clinical difference, I cannot at this time tell you.”

She added: “There may be other women whose samples were altered on review that haven’t been included in that 221 group.”

Dr Scally said he also had questions he would like answered around the original contract agreements for the laboratories, which had been shredded by the HSE as was common policy after 10 years.

He added that he believed a compensation scheme needed to be considered for women who were failed by cancer screening.

“If they’re failed by that through genuine error then I think there should be a mechanism put in place to deal with that,” he said.

It was the first time, since the publication of the scoping inquiry last month, that Dr Scally appeared in the Oireachtas to discuss the findings. He had met with many of the women affected and their families before publishing the report.

Ireland’s finance minister Paschal Donohoe in his budget day speech on Tuesday announced a further nine million euro would be allocated to the health service next year to fund some of the recommendations of the Scally Report.

Dr Scally said that he had made a promise to the women and their families to ensure he would push for the implementation of the 50 recommendations outlined in the report.

“We haven’t worked this hard to just walk away and let it sit there,” he said.

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