Director General of the HSE Tony O’Brien
Director General of the HSE Tony O’Brien spoke to Sean O’Rourke on RTE Radio One’s Today with Sean O’Rourke show.
Mr O’Brien’s interview followed the HSE confirming yesterday that some 208 women in Ireland had a false negative smear test before being diagnosed with cervical cancer and 162 of these women – 17 of whom are now dead – were not told of their earlier incorrect test.
The figures emerged after Limerick mum-of-two Vicky Phelan settled her action against a US laboratory, subcontracted by the CervicalCheck to assess the tests, without admission of liability for €2.5million last week.
Terminally-ill Ms Phelan was only told last year that a 2011 smear test assessed by the US lab returned a false negative while she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2014.
The information about the 208 women only came to light after Ms Phelan refused to sign a confidentiality agreement connected to her court action.
Yesterday, Dr David Gibbons, a former member of the National Cervical Screen Programme, told RTE’s Jackie Fox, on Morning Ireland, that he had raised concerns about the outsourcing of cervical smear tests to US labs in 2008.
He raised his concerns with Mr O’Brien when he realised that the US lab tests were detecting fewer cases of cervical cancer than the tests done in Ireland. Dr David Gibbons warned there would be problems in ten years’ time.
When nothing changed as a consequence of him raising his concerns, Dr Gibbons resigned.
Mr O’Brien is due to retire this summer.
From this morning’s interview…
Sean O’Rourke: “At any stage over the past week, did you consider standing down sooner?“
Tony O’Brien: “No.”
O’Rourke: “Despite the fact that, quite clearly, you and the minister Simon Harris are very much at odds, in very serious way.”
O’Brien: “I don’t believe we are. After what seems to be reported in the media, the disagreement between us, we were having a conversation last night which was perfectly normal and didn’t touch on this at all. You know, we’re grown-up guys, we have different roles, I said what I said because it would not have been appropriate for me to publicaly express confidence or otherwise in staff because I am, effectively, their employer. That is not the same…”
O’Rourke: “That’s a bit like sort of, you know, circling the wagons, you know, my people, right or wrong.”
O’Brien: “No, no, if the director general of RTE went out tonight and said she didn’t have confidence in you, you would take great umbrage at that. You would probably find it quite difficult to come in and present your programme tomorrow. You’d have the opportunity to sue RTE for effectively sacking you and for doing so without any process.”
O’Rourke: “Did you…”
O’Brien: “So my role is different.”
O’Rourke: “Did you ask her [CervicalCheck clinical director Grainne Flannelly] not to resign?”
O’Brien: “I asked her to consider carefully, in order that I wanted to be sure that she had reflected fully and made the right decision and I spoke to her at some length on Saturday evening, at the point at which she was confirming to me her decision to resign. What I didn’t want her to do was to do something in haste without a period of reflection and I also had a duty of care to make sure that she had access to some appropriate clinical colleagues that could talk to her about her own situation.
“Let’s remember all of the women involved in this are human beings, flesh and blood. So too are the staff members and clinicians involved. I take my duty of care to all of them equally seriously. And I think some sections of the media need to think about that too.”
Listen back in full here
FF says it has tabled a private notice question for #Dáil on cervical issue, which is being dismissed in favour of ‘statements’ which they say is insufficient. Stephen Donnelly has been given a “cursory glance” at April 16 memo sent to Simon Harris; wants it redacted and released pic.twitter.com/dROK2Ppho0
— Gavan Reilly (@gavreilly) May 1, 2018
Donnelly says Harris has agreed to attend for Qs at the Oireachtas Health Committee tomorrow afternoon (officials from Cervical Check due tomorrow morning). He says FF’s immediate focus is to ensure the Government did as much as it could, as early as it could
— Gavan Reilly (@gavreilly) May 1, 2018