‘I Don’t Believe You That You Didn’t Know’


From top: Tánaiste Simon Coveney, Minister for Health Simon Harris and Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Brid Smyth

This afternoon.

In the Dáil.

The CervicalCheck smear test scandal was raised again during Leaders’ Questions which were taken by Tánaiste Simon Coveney who told the Dáil that, this morning, he spoke to the husband of one of the 17 women who died.

Solidarity-People Before Profit Brid Smyth held up a diagram showing who is accountable to whom within the HSE and called for “heads to roll”.

Addressing the Minister for Health Simon Harris, she said she knows of a young health worker who was suspended from her job for two months for criticising HSE spending and the trolley crisis on Facebook.

The following are some points which were raised…

Fianna Fáil’s Dara Calleary told the Dáil:

“For many woman, their first point of contact to get the information was their GP. If they got an appointment with their GP, they found that CervicalCheck only actually formally contacted GPs this morning – eight days later [since Vicky Phelan’s case in the High Court] and they provided a completely innocuous update which provided no new information to the thousands of GPs around the country who are struggling to deal with this. Again, Tánaiste, I ask, why the delay?”

“…Tánaiste, when will the 38 remaining women who have yet to be informed of their audit be informed. Secondly, will all of these women receive medical supports and full medical supports. I’m aware of at least one of these women whose medical card was withdrawn over the past number of weeks, by HSE medical cards, and who is being put through the ringer to provide information. Yet, she was able to get a phone call recently to tell her about her false positive.”

“…The Taoiseach announced that women can have new smear tests undertaken, that is a welcome development. Will these smear tests be audited in a different laboratory from those that are currently being used to audit smear tests?”

“…Vicky Phelan this morning has called for a scoping inquiry, agreed last evening, to be held in public. Will the Government agree to her call?”

“…I want to ask you about comments made by the Secretary General of the Government this morning in the Public Accounts Committee to deputy Marc MacSharry in relation to sensitive cases. Were the Government alerted some months ago about this case in the context of the sensitive cases update?

Tánaiste Simon Coveney said:

In relation to Tony O’Brien, my understanding from speaking to the health Minister, and I also think it seems to be breaking in the media, he is, he has confirmed to the Health Minister that he will be taking a leave of absence from any involvement outside the HSE between now and when he steps down from the HSE to focus on contributing in a positive manner to the work that needs to be done…”

“In relation to the list of sensitive cases that does get presented to Cabinet from time to time, we have asked the Cabinet Secretary to look at the lists of sensitive cases that had been on that, on that list. And Vicky Phelan’s case was not on the sensitive cases list.That’s my understanding. It is information I’ve been given literally on the way in to the House this evening. But that is my understanding in terms of the confirmation that the Secretary to the Government has provided.”

Irish Solidarity–People Before Profit TD Brid Smyth said:

“I’m not playing politics when I make this point. But we found out yesterday that the State Claims Agency received a request in January for her [Vicky Phelan] files, they then knew in March, the head of the National Screening Programme knew in March that there was a claim going to court.

“He kicked it up the line to the head of National Screening and they kicked it up the line to the department who knew in March. The minister didn’t know.

“Right. I’ll just make it simple for everybody who’s here. That is a diagram of the transitional organisation structure of the HSE. I’ve coloured you in, in blue, to match the colour of your shirt, Minister.

“But this here is the risk committee, answerable to you. This is here is the director general [of HSE] answerable to you. None of them told you but you are the boss. You’re at the head of all of this.

None of them told you but none of them are fired, none of them are suspended. Go right down the line to where the information first came in. Nobody is in trouble for this.

I know a young worker, a young hospital worker who was suspended for two months because she criticised HSE spending and the trolley crisis on a Facebook post.

“You have to make heads roll in that department for failing to tell you, for failing to be accountable. If you don’t, you should go minister.

“Because somebody has to go here.

“And I don’t believe you that you didn’t know, I don’t believe Tony O’Brien and I don’t believe that your department isn’t full of people who are trying to cover up and if you believe that they aren’t trying to cover up, that they’re all innocent and they’re all OK, then you are failing to do your job.

That’s you at the head of the organisation, a fish rots from the head minister and you need to deal with it, or else you need to resign.”

Previously: Uncanny

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30 thoughts on “‘I Don’t Believe You That You Didn’t Know’

  1. dav

    Apparently Simon Harris has promised a FREE cervical check for “every woman who is concerned” – but he won’t commit to pay the GP’s who have to conduct such checks. The GP’s, obviously, are saying they won’t conduct those checks – you could not make this up….

    1. anne

      So he’s offering the services of doctors for free, but won’t pay them? How generous of him.

    2. Frilly Keane

      heard from Husband and Wife GPs
      who share a practice

      said they’re owed for smears taken under the last Minister

      and will drop out of the scheme with CervicalCheck rather than renew

      1. anne

        must be tough on the breadline.

        So its tough titty for their female patients so.

        They’ll be paid. They’re not the kind of docs I’d want anyway.

        1. Frilly Keane

          their practice is too busy to be doing smears for non-patients, the admin alone is time consuming enough

          1. anne

            I didn’t think a doctor would do a smear for a non patient anyway.

            Most women would have their own doctor.

            It’s their regular patients I was referring to. Where are they supposed to go? They won’t go anywhere is what & they’ll leave it go.

            It’s every few years, and less frequent as you get older. We’re not talking vast numbers at any particular surgery, when you factor in the frequency & the relevant age group.

            The current minister is that pipsqueak Harris isn’t it? So they’re owed money since last year.. eh whatever like.

          2. Frilly Keane

            you can go to any GP on the CervicalCheck panel
            Happens a lot when say
            your own GP is based in Athlone
            and you’re now working over in Swords

            so as GPs pretty much only do 9-5 now
            a girl who gets her appointment letter might just go to the most convenient

            the ideal thing would be for the Maternities to open up their Private consulting rooms 2 or 3 evenings a week,
            they’re empty then anyway
            and they can use their own labs too
            be great in Dublin
            and the Hospitals would be delighted with the extra few bob coming in from CervicalCheck for facilties they have already

            I know I’d be way more confident if my smear test was in a Maternity Hospital Lab

          3. anne

            That’s not a bad idea, but I think if you’re working in Swords you’re probably not commuting to Athlone & you need to get yourself a new doctor…

            I doubt women are going to any randomer to get a smear either.

        2. Hansel

          It’s tough, Anne. I agree doctors should be offering those smears without question.
          But it must be a tough thing, as a health worker/doctor/whatever and also a business owner to be expected to “do the right thing” with no thought for your bills. If they can’t pay their secretary/electricity/janitorial bills then what? Should they go out of business? They must be able to make a profit and their staff and suppliers must be paid. And then how much profit is acceptable…

          I’m lucky that I work in far more trivial industries.

          Again, obviously those smears should be done, but it’s so easy for me to say it.

          1. anne

            There’s plenty of sick people around.. Any doc going out of business would want to be fairly sh*t in fairness.

          2. Frilly Keane

            ah here Anne
            between Professional Indemnity Insurance, Maintaining a Premises, and the waiting on reimbursements from HSE etc

            GPs are no different when having to make tough decisions

          3. rotide

            Why dont you tell us how much you earn and what it is you do and we can all have a go at telling you that you should be doing it for less and for free

  2. Martco

    and Tony O’Brien gets to k€€p his job to the finish lin€

    taking a leave of absence from his other job apparently & gonna focus entirely on the disaster @HSE. cos there’s literally noone else who could y’know fix this. how gracious of him

    wagons now in perfect circle position around the trough

    1. TheRealJane

      How can minister Harris have confidence in Tony “it wasn’t me” O’Brien’s capacity to run a department? He’s already said he doesn’t consider himself to be responsible for things that happen within it.

      1. Cian

        He said: “As the head of the organisation I have to recognise that those who male-chickened up, to use the Taoiseach’s phrase, were in that organisation but I didn’t personally make that male-chickened up, so I can’t take full responsibility for it,”

  3. :-Joe

    Well said Brid Smith…

    Folks, another example of an independent TD speaking the honest truth to our incompetant, unaccountable, irresponsible powers that be.

    You get what you deserve when you vote against your own self interests and put your trust in the binary choice polemic illusion of the FF/FG establishment not people party. Unfortunately, now in recent times, you can add the neo-labour party into that too.

    Vote local independent and empower truth and justice for the people by the people against the systemic corruption of a one party political ideology Vs YOU!

    YOU are mere lowly serfs in their eyes and the mentality of a broken system of democracy.


  4. Catherine costelloe

    Brid Smith hit the nail on the head when she said a HSE worker was suspended for months over a Facebook posting and yet sweet fa with Tony o Brien. We are always let down when it comes to accountability.

  5. Lilly

    Does anybody know, if you got a clear smear test from your GP a year ago – supposedly good for three years – can you rely on it or should you schedule in another pronto?

    1. Catherine costelloe

      You would be better off book another pronto. O ‘Brien and other Dept heads couldn’t agree on whether false readings were 10% or 30% yesterday when questioned.
      We may know after the promised investigation . Better safe than sorry and two years is a long time to have concerns. Good luck Lilley!

      1. Lilly

        Thanks Catherine! Not my favourite way to spend a lunchtime, but as you say, two years is a long time to be wondering.

      2. Andy

        Seriously? Broadsheet should be taking this ignorant rubbish down.

        The incidence rates of false readings were outlined to the health committee yesterday at <1%.
        When they were discussing 10% and 30% rates they were referencing a different denominator.
        10%/30% represents the inverse sensitively rate of the process and is why the screening is carried out at periodic intervals.

        This type of ill informed rubbish has been let given oxygen by the media (actively encouraged by the media in fact) and is wholly irresponsible and reckless.

        1. Catherine costelloe

          It’s been very confusing , not helped at all I thought by Mr o Brien appearing with HSE colleagues before the Dail committee yesterday. Brid Smith TD , Louise o Reilly TD were scathing and baffled at the end of the 5 hour meeting.Mr o Brien spoke of audits done but wasn’t able to produce the records.
          Chaotic and disorganised.

        2. Cian

          This week almost 7000 women will have received a letter from CervicalCheck reminding them to their periodic smear test. In a normal week, 5,500 would have attended. The majority would have received the all-clear. 20-30 would have “abnormal cells” and be scheduled for treatment.

          If they didn’t get the treatment, there is high probability that some of those women would go on to get cancer, and die within the next 7 years. Others, if left untreated would be fine. If they get treatment their likelihood of cancer is minimal. They get more frequent smears until they are clear, and then go back to 3-year tests.

          This week, with all the scaremongering that has happened, (media sensationalism, and the politicians scoring points, and ignorant online commentary) the likelihood is that fewer than normal women will go for the test.

          If, say,1000 fewer get tested this week[1] – at least one of these will be dead from preventable cancer within 7 years. Say the numbers drop by half for the next 4 weeks – then we are looking at double-figure deaths.

          Yes, we need an inquiry. Yes, CervicalCheck needs to rebuild women’s trust. Yes, people need to be held accountable. Yes, pressure needs to kept on them to get answers.

          But we need to lose the hysteria. We need to lose the irresponsible and reckless posturing. And if your test is due – you are a lot safer to have the test than not have it.

          [1] assuming that they don’t change their minds and get tested in 6 months

          1. Catherine costelloe

            How much do we pay the USA firm that we outsource to and is it over 50% of tests that are sent? Maybe , you know Cian?
            In the UK you are sent out a letter from clinic / hospital advising you that your test was clear/ abnormal and a copy is sent to your GP.
            Why the ducking and diving here?

          2. Cian

            I don’t know. I have no connection with any of this – only what is publically available on the web. saying that, the costs are is most likely “commercially sensitive” information and not available.

            I’ve never had a smear test – so don’t know if they tell the woman herself or her doctor where she was tested. I had a blood test, and the results were sent to my GP, who then informed me. So it seems to be “the done thing”. And I can understand why that is so (if the results aren’t clear). If they had been “abnormal” and I got a letter from the hospital saying this – I would need to contact my doctor to interpret them for me and to let me know.

            “Why the ducking and diving here?” I’m not sure what you mean.

          3. Catherine costelloe

            Thanks , Cian. Ducking and diving refers to not telling the patient of abnormal smear and early intervention. H

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