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.
“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