Minister for Health Simon Harris will seek to bring forward a briefing for those affected by the CervicalCheck controversy by 24 hours after they expressed anger at leak of parts of a report into the affair.
Mr Harris said it was “extremely regrettable” that parts of 200-page scoping report by Dr Gabriel Scally, the public health veteran, were published in The Irish Times and RTÉ ahead of the publication of his report tomorrow.
It was reported today that Dr Scally believed a commission of investigation was not required into the controversy, despite the stated view by Mr Harris that a commission be held into the controversy.
He said the report should be published and the views of “a very eminent expert” asked to investigate the controversy should be considered.
“All along I wanted them to be briefed first.”
Mr Harris said he will take their response and views very seriously before he makes a decision on whether or not a commission of investigation should be held.
“I intend to let the report be published, to meet with Opposition, meet with people impacted by this debacle. If they still feel a need then we will have one, it is important to let the report be published first.”
Mr Harris said “truthfully” he does not know who leaked the details of the Scally review but he intends to find out. However, it is not a priority for him today.
Mr Harris said he did not know how a leak of some of the findings emerged in the media but said there were 50 recommendations in the report and none of these had been reported as yet, he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.
The Minister said he was going to see if he could brief the women and families in advance of the Cabinet meeting tomorrow and said he hoped to be in a position to recommend all 50 recommendations, subject to advice from the Attorney General.
The Scally report, a 200-page document that investigates why women diagnosed with cervical cancer were not told about an audit revealing false negative smear tests, concluded a commission of investigation was not needed.
It is understood Dr Scally’s report says there are other ways to deal with the issues involved.
The women and families affected by the CervicalCheck controversy reacted an angrily on Tuesday after some of the findings emerged.
Dr Gabriel Scally briefed Mr Harris on Monday ahead of the publication of the report on Wednesday.
However, the emergence of findings from the report ahead of them being presented to those involved, has been criticised.
Two of the women affected by the CervicalCheck controversy, Vicky Phelan and Lorraine Walsh, along with Stephen Teap, who learned about revised smears concerning his late wife Irene only earlier this year, were due to be briefed by Dr Scally at the same time as Mr Harris brought the document to Cabinet on Wednesday.
Labour TD Alan Kelly said he was “disgusted” and “shocked” at the leak that recommendation that no commission of investigation was needed.
Mr Kelly said the emergence of this information was “the worst example I have seen of a government trying to control the message by getting something like this out there,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.
“It is obviously something that somebody somewhere or some group have for their own motivations have decided to leak. It is absolutely shocking,” said Mr Kelly.
Mr Kelly also suggested now some of the findings from the report were in the public domain Dr Scally should get in his car and meet Mr Teap, Ms Walsh and Vicky Phelan, now, rather than wait until Wednesday.
Mr Teap, whose wife died of cervical cancer last year after receiving incorrect smear tests, also reacted angrily to the emergence of the findings on Tuesday.
“Heartbroken this morning at the disrespect shown towards the woman and families in this scandal by Government,” he said. It was “very upsetting waking up to this,” he said in a tweet.
Sharing Mr Teap’s critical tweet, Ms Walsh said: “Disgraceful that once again the first place we find out information is in the media!!!”
Ms Walsh, sharing Mr Teap’s critical tweet, said: “Disgraceful that once again the first place we find out information is in the media!!!”
She asked, “who is responsible for leaking this highly confidential information,” directing her question to Mr Harris.
Mr Teap and Ms Walsh were due to receive a briefing from Dr Scally about the contents of his report on Wednesday morning at the same time that Mr Harris was due to share the report with Cabinet.
Stephen McMahon, director of the Irish Patients’ Association, shared his outrage over the leak on social media.
“Without a doubt the overdue Scally report is of [NATIONAL]importance particularly for the women, men and family’s [SIC]affected,” he tweeted. “For the sake of a day for them to be briefed. Who leaked key findings?”