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Image / Agenda / Breaking Stories

CervicalCheck Tribunal: Vicky Phelan says patients’ concerns have been completely ignored

by Megan Burns
22nd Oct 2020

Vicky Phelan via Twitter

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly announced October 27 as the start date for the CervicalCheck Tribunal, but campaigner Vicky Phelan says the concerns of women and families affected have been ignored.

With the announcement by Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly that the CervicalCheck Tribunal would commence work on October 27, campaigner Vicky Phelan expressed her anger at “a flat rejection of all of our concerns”.

The tribunal, which was supposed to begin in March, had been delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic, and is intended to act as an alternative to legal proceedings for those affected by misread cervical cancer screenings. There are 203 active claims related to the the CervicalCheck scandal, while a further eight have been resolved.

On Twitter, Vicky Phelan raised a number of ways in which the announcement ignores the issues raised by CervicalCheck patient support group, 221+.

Firstly, she was shocked at the minister’s announcement came on the same day that the group received a letter informing them of the tribunal’s start date, giving them no prior warning that the start date was so imminent, not to mention that this date falls just as the country is going back into its highest level of lockdown.

“The @221plus women & families who this Tribunal is aimed at, were not afforded an opportunity to respond to the Minister’s decision to formally establish the Tribunal BEFORE it was announced.” Vicky tweeted. “As we have become used to, those most affected are often the last to know.”

She goes on to explain that the group met the minister six weeks ago over video call and outlined several concerns about the tribunal, all of which, she says, have been rejected by this announcement.

Firstly, she says, they asked for a non-adversarial route to be found for the Tribunal, one not requiring women to fight the labs which misread their tests.

“Women could instead rely on the non-delegable duty owed to them by the HSE, who were found primarily responsible for the cervical screening programme in the Morrissey case. The HSE could then rely on their contractual and legal indemnities against the lab,” Vicky says.

“The Minister rejected these arguments and set out in his letter how the laboratories MUST be involved in proceedings if taken before the Tribunal. This will NOT be acceptable to many of our members.”

Secondly, she explains that they asked that applicants to the Tribunal who receive an award be allowed to return to the Tribunal should they suffer a recurrence of their cancer. She gives the example of how the State allowed applicants in the Hepatitis C Tribunal to return if their health deteriorated.

This right, she points out, would be preferable to the High Court rules, which do not allow a return, however she says the minister did not address this concern at all.

Thirdly, Vicky points out that the group is concerned that the Statute of Limitations may prevent some of their members getting justice.

“We explained to the Minister that some of our members have received legal advice that they may now be statute-barred because they relied on the Government’s promise of a ‘non-adversarial’ Tribunal and did not issue HC proceedings.”

“These members may now, through no fault of their own, be statute-barred because of delays by Government of more than two years in establishing this Tribunal. The Minister did not address this issue.”

She concludes by saying that the Tribunal therefore does not prioritise the needs of the women affected, and asks the minister to reconsider. If it does go ahead in the current format, she says, they will be recommending that members of 221+ do not participate.

Featured image: Vicky Phelan

Read more: Cancer and Covid-19: “I finished radiotherapy in January. I haven’t seen a doctor since February”

Read more: Video: Vicky Phelan does experiment with her son to highlight the importance of hand-washing

Read more: Meath woman who lived through Spanish flu offers message of hope on her 107th birthday



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