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Funding for specialist centres confirmed after 'positive' meeting with vaginal mesh campaigners

The Minister has asked that an independent report be compiled detailing these patients’ experiences in the healthcare system.

Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

THE MINISTER FOR Health has confirmed funding for specialist centres for patients impacted by mesh complications.

In November last year Minister Simon Harris suspended all surgeries involving vaginal mesh implants until the HSE implements 19 recommendations from the Chief Medical Officer. 

These recommendations include the provision of aftercare for women living with complications from these procedures.

Vaginal mesh devices have been used in operations to treat stress urinary incontinence (SUI) and pelvic organ prolapse (POP); two conditions women can suffer from after natural childbirth or in their later years.

Thousands of women globally, including hundreds in Ireland, have reported painful complications after these surgeries. In some cases the device, which is made from a type of plastic, has broken up and embedded itself in the tissue and organs around it.

Consultants in Ireland have urged the government to lift the suspension as they have patients with severe incontinence who are waiting for the surgeries. However women impacted by the complications have argued that further research on complication levels in Ireland needs to be done first. 

They have also called for swift access to aftercare for patients who are affected by complications, which have been debilitating for some. 

A spokesperson for the minister said he had a “very good meeting” today with the Mesh Survivors Ireland support group, which now has more than 500 members. 

“His priority remains putting in place the necessary structures for, and the provision of, care of women who have been affected by the use of mesh,” she said.

At the meeting Harris confirmed funding for two specialist centres for those impacted by mesh. This includes women who have had vaginal mesh procedures and any patients (both women and men) who have had other surgeries involving a mesh implant, such as hernia operations. 

“He encouraged all women and men affected by mesh to engage with the relevant HSE contact points provided on the HSE website, to ensure their service needs can be identified and provided for,” the spokesperson said. 

The minister has also ordered an independent report to document patients’ experiences with complications and issues with aftercare. He told the group he would revert back to them in the coming weeks with further details on how to do this. 

“The minister did not rule out further inquiries but believes the most important next step is to hear from the women and men who have suffered adverse complications as a result of mesh,” his spokesperson said. 

Sinn Féin TD Louise O’Reilly attended the meeting with members of the support group today and told TheJournal.ie that the women there felt that it went well. 

“It was positive and it was long which is usually a good indication,” she said.

O’Reilly said Harris told the group that a translabial scanner, equipment that can be used to check whether the device has broken up inside the body, will be available for use by Irish clinicians in four to five weeks.

An expert from Croydon will travel here to provide training in how to use the scanner.

She said they also discussed the aftercare pathways for impacted patients, as some are still on long waiting lists for treatment like physiotherapy.

“I spoke to a woman who is paying €100 per week for physio because she has been told she could be on a waiting list for two years. So it’s really important that things happen fast with that.”

O’Reilly said she still has concerns about the lack of data the HSE has on these procedures – the HSE does not know how many of these implants have been used and has no database of patient outcomes. 

“We still don’t know the extent of this. The women themselves said every time they do something public, the numbers who join their Facebook group go up and the numbers of other women getting in touch with them go up.”

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