June 13 2018 2:30 AM
There are critical delays to legal actions where some women battling cancer “do not have time to wait”, a solicitor warned.
Medical negligence solicitor Caoimhe Haughey told the Irish Independent she was now “frustrated and bordering on angry” with how the families of women who are dying or critically ill are being treated.
A simple right to patient medical information was being withheld, Ms Haughey claimed.
Ms Haughey had earlier told RTÉ Radio One: “I have a file on my desk for a lady who passed away – it’s five inches off the table. It’s letter after letter I’ve had to write and all I’ve been met with is obfuscation, grandstanding and stonewalling by the HSE, the State Claims Agency (SCA) and CervicalCheck.”
The €2,000 payment announced by Health Minister Simon Harris, to be provided to each woman affected by the CervicalCheck scandal, was not enough when women are facing huge legal fees, she said.
She estimated that gaining medical records alone via the courts could cost up to €600 and a High Court action cost tens of thousands of euro.
“I’m not charging anything but I’ll need outlay… to issue summonses, prepare affidavits and €2,000 won’t go as far as is needed to cover that,” she said.
“I’m now waiting six weeks to get access to basic information and I’ve written letter after letter to the Minister of Health. I can’t even find out if my client’s late wife is part of the Scally scoping inquiry. I asked them four weeks ago.”
This was a matter of “deny, delay, defend… the David and Goliath situation”, she said.
Ms Haughey added: “We are considering applying to the High Court for various orders as a last recourse in order to get access to basic information and patient records.
“The Government needs to stop coming out with these wonderful statements that are not being acted on on the ground. I’m tired of the public face not coinciding with the private face on the ground.”
The HSE said: “As a result of the issues arising from the CervicalCheck audit, there’s been significant increase in demand by women and their families for access to their records and smears. The aim is to respond to all enquiries, both legal and data access, in a comprehensive, structured and timely manner.
“We’re obliged to address all access requests within 30 days. Our aim is to achieve this or improve on it.”
The SCA said it is “responding promptly to all contacts from solicitors in cases of this nature where it has the information it requires to do so”.
It said it was “placing a high priority on treating the people who have made the claims with dignity and compassion”.