Karen Kearney on Today FM’s The Matt Cooper Show regarding Breast Check and the recent scaremongering by Professor Ann O’Doherty,National Clinical Director of the Breast Check programme and Professor Arnie Hill, Surgical Adviser to the National Control Programme, designed to deflect from the increased and valid public concern over the quality of cancer care and screening in the country in the wake of the CervicalCheck scandal.
Karen did not get an opportunity to respond to the other guest’s comments at the end of the slot on the present legal system, those of Niall O’Toole, an adviser to the NHS on health reform. There has been a lot of talk recently about taking lawyers out of hospitals. However, what the CervicalCheck scandal has shown precisely is that the present system is working. If it was not for lawyers and specifically Vicky Phelan’s lawyer, we would not know about the deficiencies in that screening programme.
Legal costs are largely driven because of the HSE’s/ SCA’s defend and deny policy. Look at the farcical scenario we saw with Professor Grainne Flannelly, CervicalCheck’s then Clinical Director and other senior clinicians in Ireland arguing via correspondence, for over 15 months, about who would tell who what and the obsession of keeping it from media.
That is a microcosm of exactly what we come up against day after day.
What needs to change is this.
The State Claims Agency needs to focus on the resolution of the cases at a far earlier stage. When an adverse event occurs, they need to investigate it and if there is a liability, they need to come and tell the patient that there has been an error made and that they accept responsibility.
We need candidness in the doctor/patient relationship from the outset and we then need that candidness to be reflected in the manner in which the cases are dealt with.
Rules of Court need to be brought into place which require the HSE (and any other Defendants for that matter) to candidly admit what the position is. At the present time, they submit full defences in which they deny everything.
Look at the Vicky Phelan defence. It denies everything, yet €2.5m was ultimately paid. How are they reconcilable?
If the Defendants had to face up to their responsibilities long before the matter ever goes to court, a lot of the cases and the trauma that is associated with them, would be removed.
Costs paid by the taxpayer would be significantly reduced.
Let’s not fall into the trap of deflecting attention from the appalling failures in our health system and finding a new fall guy – the legal profession. Time for change, yes. But the right changes; ones that will make Ireland’s health system fit for purpose for all of us.
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