Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín TD is calling for the Minister for Health to put all the facts on the table in relation to he Cervical Check scandal. Deputy Tóibín was speaking in the wake of Ms Sharon Butler Hughes’ revelations that Minister Harris has refused to meet with her without precondidtions. Ms Butler Hughes played a crucial role in exposing the delay of a huge number of Cervical Check cases.
Speaking today, Deputy Tóibín stated:
“4,088 women were affected by the most recent disaster in Cervical Check with the delay of smear test results. Ms Sharon Butler Hughes played a pivotal part in exposing the laboratory computer glitch behind the delay in a huge number of Cervical Check screening tests. Ms Butler Hughes has been forced to break her privacy as a patient in order to ensure that the Cervical Check screening tests are now working properly for thousands of other women.
“The time line of Ms Butler Hughes and thousands of other women’s experiences with Cervical Check is shocking. From the start of the year to 11th July Sharon was in contact with the Department of Health numerous times on the issue of Cervical Check.
“The HSE and the Department of Health knew by at least April of the Cervical Check delays. On 9th July, Ms Butler Hughes phoned the Department and the Department official stated that the Minister was fully briefed. On 10th July, the Minister said that he only found out about the issue at 6pm that day.
“Given the ongoing shocking crisis within Cervical Check, given the depth of the disasters that have happened in this area to date, should the minister not have some kind of early warning system in place for this crisis?
“The Minister seems to think that not knowing or not being aware of recurring disasters within his department is a reasonable response, that it is a reasonable defence.
“The Minister claims that Ms Sharon Butler Hughes is wrong with regards the timeline of the Minister’s awareness of the Cervical Check scandal. Ms Butler Hughes is legitimately unhappy that her views on this have been misrepresented in the McCraith Report.
“Ms Butler Hughes has asked to meet the Minister to discuss this and other issues. The Minister has been adament that he will not meet with Ms. Butler Huges without preconditions, which is an astonishing thing to do.
“The Minister needs to answer some basic questions:
(1) Why will he not meet with Sharon with out preconditions?
(2) Is it ordinary for the Department of Health’s press office to exchange “speaking points” with the HSE press office at times of crisis in the Health Department? And why was the Department of An Taoiseach’s press office also sent a copy of these speaking points on 27th March this year?
(3) After the Department of Health became aware of the IT issues back in March, what action did the Department take?
(4) Does the Minister for Health still maintain that he did not learn about the Cervical Check IT issues until 10th July, despite documents released under Freedom of Information showing that officials within his Department were aware of the IT issues as early as 27th March this year?
(5) Did the Department of Health’s press office notify the Minister of the IT issues when they became aware of them in March this year?”