“Seven women have now come forward to me to tell me that they are waiting inordinate amounts of time for access to their slides. This jars completely with what the HSE told the Public Accounts Committee last week.”

Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy TD today called for a government guarantee that women affected by the Cervical Check crisis will get swift access to their smear slides.

Asking Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil, Deputy Murphy highlighted the long waits facing women and their families who find themselves fighting against the HSE and indeed the State just to try and get access to their own medical information.

Deputy Murphy said:

“Tánaiste, I realise today’s Brexit events are overshadowing everything today and understandably so but today there are women and their families at the centre of the Cervical Check controversy who today still find themselves fighting against the HSE and indeed the State just to try and get access to their own medical information.

“These are people living in fear; some in the midst of the most aggressive forms of cancer treatments and some still dealing with the side-effects of those treatments. These are not people who should have to battle for anything else right now. Their health battle is more than enough for them to have to deal with.

“But unfortunately that is not the case. And I want to draw attention to the absolute contradictions that exist between the information that is being put forward by the Taoiseach, the Minister, HSE officials, Cervical Check and the actual lived realities of these women and their families.

“Yesterday I spoke with Cian O’Carroll the solicitor representing many of the women impacted and he informed me that he is still chasing down slides from as far back as April & May. The HSE put a protocol in place back in August following which Mr O’Carroll engaged with the HSE to try and ensure it would provide the medical detail required by women if and when court action was undertaken. Yet since 10th September…over 2 months ago…there has been zero engagement from the HSE.

“The Taoiseach stood in this chamber and in reply to me agreed with me that there should be no further delays for these women. Previous to that the Taoiseach told this house that no women should have to go to court. But now I am told there will be an appeal to the High Court to force the release of slides. These women and their families will be put through that torture just to get access to their own information.

“Seven women have now come forward to me to tell me that they are waiting inordinate amounts of time for access to their slides. This jars completely with what the HSE told the Public Accounts Committee last week. It said that the average waiting time for women who requested their slides was 22 days. The HSE representatives spoke about a specific unit having been established within the HSE just to deal with those requests.

“Yet here we have these women saying that is not the reality they are experiencing. I understand that the National Screening Service has ordered Quest Diagnostics to stop releasing slides. I also understand that where previously it was the norm to include a lab report with the slides as they were released; the HSE is now directing that no reports be given. It is clear based on these experiences and the information given to me that the HSE have become far more legally focused than patient focused.

“The goal posts keep being moved for these women and their families and they cannot continue to be treated like this. Tánaiste I have just one question: Can you please outline the process and timeline whereby these women will be given access to their slides?”

ENDS

15th November 2018