May 27, 2018

Outgoing HSE chief Tony O'Brien launches personal attack on TDs

14 May 2018, 10:36 | Lena Norman

Tony O’Brien could face a motion of no confidence in the Dáil over the smear test controversyNIALL CARSON PA

Tony O’Brien could face a motion of no confidence in the Dáil over the smear test controversy

Mr Kelly chaired the committee last Thursday when it emerged that 2016 memos showed senior HSE and department officials knew that the issuing of letters informing the women about clinical audits showing that previous smear tests were incorrect were being suspended in March 2016 pending legal advice.

Having confirmed his resignation from the position on Thursday evening, O'Brien posted on Twitter on Friday morning to take aim at the conduct of the Committee, saying: "When I appear in public - say at a Committee I conduct myself against a simple standard".

TONY O'BRIEN HAS criticised how TDs questioned him at the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) yesterday.

The Government is on a collision course with the Public Accounts Committee over PAC plans to proceed with its own inquiries into the CervicalCheck scandal while the Government-appointed scoping inquiry investigates.

There were heated exchanges between the pair.

Ahead of a special cabinet meeting in Dublin to address a crisis that has already seen the boss of Ireland's health service resign, Mr Harris said: "I want to assure the public that I am equally furious about what is emerging and there will be nowhere to hide, there will be accountability".

"I sometimes look across the room and hope their children will never see and hear how they behave,"he said".

A briefing note from July 2016 said "all worldwide screening programmes will have encountered a media headline that "screening did not diagnose my cancer".

Mr O'Brien had defended the cervical cancer screening programme which he said has detected 50,000 abnormalities which led to early treatment which probably avoided "hundreds of cancers and ultimately deaths".

Mr Harris said three labs were now contracted to examine smear tests carried out on Irish women - two based in Ireland and one in the United Kingdom - and insisted all were quality assured.

O'Brien disagreed, telling MacSharry: "You are causing hysteria".

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Mr MacSharry asked where the accountability is while "we're in here kicking a football around about let's have an investigation to see what happened".

MacSharry said his questioning at committees is always robust and that his "personal frustration and anger may have come across" yesterday as he had just listened to Emma Mhic Mhathúna speaking about her terminal cancer diagnosis on the radio.

"Given the sensitivity of the matters that we are dealing with, given the health and lives of women that are at the heart of this issue, that their work should be allowed to continue and that is where we are most likely to get the key facts and answers", Mr Donohoe told RTÉ's This Week radio programme yesterday.

The HSE forwarded three 2016 memos to the Irish parliament's Public Accounts Committee on Thursday as members probed the growing controversy around the misinterpreted smear tests.

Speaking today the HSE said it was unacceptable that patients were not informed of the outcome.

Responding to O'Brien's tweet, MacSharry told Today with Seán O'Rourke: "I can understand Tony O'Brien is unhappy, he's lashing out somewhat".

"There will be and must accountability and answers here for the women of Ireland and I am absolutely determined in relation to that".

"I have no difficulty in anybody criticising me".

"I think the whole country is devastated, shocked, upset and hurt", said Mr Harris.

"Looking back, there is nothing I would change".

The memo to HSE bosses from Ireland's National Screening Service (NSS) also advised a "pause" in the process of communicating to clinicians the findings of the audit of smear test results belonging to women who were subsequently diagnosed with cancer.

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