Stephen Donnelly TD, Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Health, has said new evidence revealed today raises urgent questions the government must answer.
Deputy Donnelly was speaking after the Public Accounts Committee received three memos sent to the HSE from CervicalCheck in March and July of 2016. The memos relate to the CervicalCheck audit done in 2014. They focus on the negative publicity that could entail when women were told that their earlier screenings had missed warning signs of cancer.
Deputy Donnelly said, “The release of these memos poses serious questions for the Government. This drip drip feed of information is showing that the Government is clearly not on top of the issue, feeding into widespread anger and worry across the country. The memos released today provide another example of the patient being lost as a system tries to protect itself.
“It is critical that public confidence in the national screening programmes is high. That is not being helped by the HSE, which seems to have mismanaged its whole approach. I said last week that the Director General of the HSE should step down, without prejudice, with immediate effect. I put that to him directly this week at committee, and in light of the memos released today, I am repeating that call.
“The Government must clarify whether it has confidence in the Director General, something they have studiously avoided doing to date. They have other questions to answer too:
“Who specifically were the memos sent to in the HSE in 2016?
“Who read them?
“What response issued to CervicalCheck and in whose name?
“Who saw the memo in the Department of Health, and when?
“Was there any communication to the HSE on foot of it?
“Did anyone bring the memo, or the issue, to the attention of either of the Ministers for Health in 2016 or their advisers?
“These memos show a consistent approach of containment. Language is used such as “pause all letters”, “seek legal advice”, “prepare media plan” and “continue to prepare reactive communications response for a media headline that “screening did not diagnose my cancer””.
“The Government has a lot of explaining to do. It must work to restore confidence in the national screening programmes, and being honest about its own confidence in the Director General would be a good place to start.”