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Health Minister Simon Harris
cervical check

Harris: 'Absolutely pathetic' that unsearchable documents were provided to scoping probe

The Scally probe has been provided with unsearchable and hard to read documents.

HEALTH MINISTER SIMON Harris has said it is “absolutely pathetic” and “not acceptable” that scanned documents were sent to the Cervical Check scoping probe.

It emerged this week that Dr Gabriel Scally, who is heading up the probe, had been provided with unsearchable and difficult to read documentation by state bodies.

Harris, speaking to RTE’s Today with Sean O’Rourke, said that he would be writing to the HSE today to insist that information be provided to Scally in a way that makes sense so he can get on with his work.

Making interim recommendations yesterday the Scally inquiry said an immediate ex- gratia payment of €2,000 should be paid to each woman involved in the Cervical Check scandal and to the next of kin of the deceased.

An end-of-June deadline was initially imposed on the scoping probe – but it’s now expected to conclude at the end of the summer.

Scally said yesterday that it had been difficult to obtain information in the format required.

“I am frustrated by it,” he said. “The problem is the volume of information that we’re going to have to go through and its availability to us, because it is not yet coming either in the quantity I would want it or in the way I would want it.”

He added:

I will not be letting walls get in my way, whether they are stone or otherwise.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the Dáil today that the government expected full cooperation by all agencies and said anyone who attempted to obstruct the work of the investigation was obstructing the work of the government.

Responding to questions from Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin he said the government was “committed to establishing a Commission of Inquiry” but that it was important the Scally probe conclude its work first.

The CervicalCheck controversy came into the public eye when Vicky Phelan, whose cervical cancer is now terminal, settled a High Court action against the HSE and the US laboratory tasked with reviewing one of her smears.

At least 18 women whose smear tests were highlighted during an audit have since died. Health Minister Simon Harris launched an inquiry into the controversy last month, imposing that June deadline.

The scoping inquiry will examine details of the non-disclosure of information from Cervical Check audits to patients and what various parties, including the HSE and the Department of Health, knew and when they knew it.

It will also examine the tendering, contracting and operation of the labs contracted by Cervical Check.

A separate strand of the examination will review the screening tests of all the women who have developed cervical cancer who participated in the screening programme since it was established (more details on the probe here).

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