Cover Up And Confidentiality


Vicky Phelan, her husband Jim and her solicitor Cian O’Carroll (in background)

Earlier this morning.

On RTÉ One’s Today With Seán O’Rourke.

Solicitor Cian O’Carroll, who represented Limerick mum-of-two Vicky Phelan in her recent High Court action, said he doesn’t trust the HSE’s position that just 206 women who developed cervical cancer after having a misdiagnosed smear test should have received earlier intervention.

Mr O’Carroll explained he cannot trust the figure because it was reached by the very same company that gave the wrong test results in the first place.

Readers will recall Ms Phelan was awarded €2.5 million in a settlement against Clinical Pathology Laboratories in Austin, Texas – which receives outsourced smear tests from Ireland – last week.

She was given a false negative smear test in 2011 and subsequently diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2014.

She was only informed of the 2011 misdiagnosis last year.

Ms Phelan now has terminal cancer.

During Today with Seán O’Rourke, Mr O’Carroll was asked what type of inquiry should be held into the matter.

He said:

“HIQA [Health Information and Quality Authority] is geared towards clinical standards and if the focus of this investigation is solely around clinical standards, that would be wrong.

“Because what’s happened here is well beyond that.

“This has got to do with corporate governance within Cervical Check, the HSE and the Department of Health.

We have to find out why a direction was given to deceive the families of women who are dead and to deceive women who are now gravely ill. That was clearly done deliberately, having consciously considered what the plan would be to inform clinicians as to what they would do next and that’s clear from the correspondence we’ve seen and, of course, that letter from July 2016. I think an inquiry has to look at, first of all, the quality issue.

“What were the quality standards? Were they acceptable, benchmarked against international expected standards for cervical screening?

“That is a clinical governance issue.

Secondly, there must be an inquiry, whether it’s part of that or by a separate agency, looking at the cover-up.

Who was responsible? Who knew?

“And thirdly, related to Vicky Phelan, why is it that her case was fought so vigorously, even when the minister [for health Simon Harris] himself was informed about this case two or three days before it began?

What was it about this case that they were so determined that she would be forced into a confidentiality clause that, through her courage, she ultimately defeated them on.

“Clearly, people in office knew that this case was going to cause serious trouble for people, in Cervical Check, the HSE and the Department of Health – enormous efforts and energy were put into forcing her to remain silent.”

“There are a lot of people out there who are very worried and a lot of people who feel, from their own experience, they’re telling a story that’s remarkably like Vicky Phelan’s and I think that’s why people are making contact [with him].

They can see that they’ve had a diagnosis of cervical cancer after a history of clear smears.

“They haven’t been notified by anybody about a clinical audit. Now they’re expecting a telephone call.

“I wonder will they all get a phone call? Because I don’t trust this 206 figure.

“Remember the 206 cases – that ultimately comes from an analysis of cases performed by Med Lab which is the organisation that performed the screening of the smears in the first place.

So Cervical Check thought it was appropriate to have the clinical audit and lookback performed by the very people who had done such an appalling job at reading the smears in the first place.

I would have thought that the 1,480 or so cases, that were identified, of women who had diagnosis or cervical cancer, following a clear smear – all 1,480 of those cases will have to be taken out and examined independently by cytologists.

That’s not such an enormous task as it sounds – each slide, as I understand it, would take about five minutes to be correctly viewed and then reported on thereafter.

“But that’s the only way that it’s going to be, that trust for these figures will emerge.

“Because you cannot have a system where an organisation, no matter how conscientious they may be, clearly, there is a risk that their reporting would tend to way from liability against themselves.”

[To clarify, Med Lab did not carry out Ms Phelan’s original screening in 2011. This was performed by Clinical Pathology Laboratories in Austin Texas – whom Ms Phelan settled her High Court action against for €2.5 million last week. However, Med Lab and Clinical Pathology Laboratories are sister companies and have the same parent company, Sonic Healthcare.]

Listen back in full here

Earlier: HSE Boss ‘Dismissed My Concerns’ About Cervical Screening Results


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23 thoughts on “Cover Up And Confidentiality

  1. The Ghost of Starina

    How can the State have failed us so many times in so many ways?! Constant scandals, cover-ups, tribunals.

    1. Truthful Ulsterman

      Mary Harney was minister for health when the outsourcing decisions were made – she is chancellor of the university of limerick,
      Michael Noonan ran the clock on Brigid Mc Cole waiting for her to die – he is a TD for Limerick

      Brian Cowen bankrupted the country and his brother (a publican) topped the poll in Offally at the last election.

      That’s how it keeps happening.

      1. The Ghost of Starina

        And Harney has a fat retirement cheque while our health system continues to suffer the fallout

          1. Truthful Ulsterman

            Cowen, Mary O’Rourke and Noonan were ministers for health between the time when Rory O’Hanlon set up the expert group (to establish a screening service) (1992) and 2000 when Michéal Martin began the pilot. Cowen and Noonan did nothing to move the pilot on.

            If we have two of the vilest creatures ever to slime around the Irish political swamp in this key role we cannot be surprised when things don’t work.

            Noonan is still one of Vicky Phelan’s TD’s and Barry Cowen topped the poll in Offally.

    2. Spud

      Ah shure, we’re a great little country, so long as nothing is wrong with ye, and you keep quiet when you see dodgy stuff going on.

      So much of this stuff is just beyond belief.

    3. Bert

      Because people vent their spleens at a computer screen and think that their internet outrage counts. You can’t irradicate an infection by pouring scorn on a shadow.

      1. mildred st. meadowlark

        That’s a gorgeous turn of phrase btw.

        “you can’t irradicate an infection by pouring scorn on a shadow.”

  2. Ron

    Can a private citizen refer a Doctor to the Irish Medical Council under the fitness to practice committee rules and procedures? Can a member of the public refer the medical doctors, current and resigned at Cervical Check to be investigated?

      1. tycho

        Doggedly massaging the message, Cian. You fetch your masters’ slippes so well … Good boy!

      2. david

        And that’s who must handle the case
        Especially in the awarding of the contract by Tony OBrien and being in the position of heading the HSE and he could of been behind the cover up
        Too many questions and tribunals do not deliver accountability
        Powerful people are involved and must be unmasked and brought to book for manslaughter
        17 victims dead and could be from denied proper treatment
        17 Irish women, that’s mass murder or at least manslaughter

  3. SOQ

    The default position from state agencies appears to be to cover up and bully the claimant. Right and wrong doesn’t seem to matter. It is a pattern right back from the first abuse cases. In this case however, the woman is terminally ill and was not going to back down. Fair play to her.

    1. realPolithicks

      A large part of the problem is that no one is ever held responsible for anything in Ireland. Start making “individuals” personally responsible for their actions and you may see people taking these issues a little more seriously.

  4. Truthful Ulsterman

    Yes fair play to her. There is a culture of secrecy from top to bottom in the Irish apparatus.

    1. SOQ

      You’d be including the north in that statement obviously. Apart from waving flags at each other, most people have no idea what they done in Stormont in the first place.

  5. :-Joe

    Ahh.. for fupp’s sake, really?… Welcome to oi’rland where Jayzus fupping wept, yet again…..
    (Excuse me BS moderator for my language I’m not looking to waste your time… )

    I’ve said it before etc… when are you fupping !3$4^&$& people(60%-ish of Irish voters) going to learn?

    Voting for party politicians means you’re supporting the racketeering of global corporate private finacial markets and simultaneausly voting against your own self interests and the interests of others around you.

    Vote local indepenents and force the FF/FG establishment for private finance party to finally officially merge into the one whole party that they actually are and let them stand as the conservative, religious, mercantile greedy establishment for private finance party that they are both 50/50 involved in already.

    It’s a complete scam and yet it’s being going on in front of your eyes and right under your nose for decades.
    It’s only going to change and get better if you wake up, educate yourself, vote for real democracy and do the right thing for everyone’s future.

    If you think that even one term of what the sinister establishment thugs and ignorant brainwashed fools call “the looney left” would be any worse than this system of constant abuse then you’re probably unreachable and beyond reasoning with.

    i.e. Deluded, misinformed, blind, just plaing wrong etc. – You can take you pick….. or have them all.

    The rest of you can and need to make the effort for yourselves and on the behalf of the mindless and clueless among us until they finally pass away into another chapter of regressive missed opportuniies in Irish history.

    Vote for local independents who have proven they actually do and will get positive results for Irish democracy.


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