Limerick's Vicky Phelan calls on Taoiseach to 'find out who is responsible' for scandal

Fintan Walsh, Health Correspondent

Reporter:

Fintan Walsh, Health Correspondent

Email:

fintan.walsh@limerickleader.ie

Vicky Phelan with her husband and right-hand man Jim, son Darragh and daughter Amelia. Speaking about Jim’s support, she said: ‘I would be lost without him’

Vicky Phelan with her husband and right-hand man Jim, son Darragh and daughter Amelia. Speaking about Jim’s support, she said: ‘I would be lost without him’

VICKY PHELAN, the Limerick mum-of-two who lifted the lid on the HSE’s Cervical Check scandal is calling on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to track down the person responsible for the shocking controversy that has affected hundreds of women. 

On Tuesday night, she told RTE’s Prime Time that she had been invited to meet the Taoiseach in private over the issue. She accepted the invite “in principle”, she said.

Speaking to the Limerick Leader this Wednesday Ms Phelan said that when she meets him she will demand accountability following an inquiry into the controversy.

“I want a commitment that this inquiry or tribunal, whatever form it takes, that there will be accountability. I don’t think it’s enough just to carry out an inquiry that is going to look at the clinical side of things. I think accountability needs to happen. We need to find out who is responsible, when and what they knew, and that’s what I will be demanding.”

The Annacotty resident, 43, was awarded a €2.5m settlement in a High Court case against a US lab last week, after she was not informed about an incorrect smear test in 2011 until last year.

After she was given the all-clear of abnormalities, she was diagnosed with terminal cervical cancer in 2014. A review of her test was carried out in 2016, but she was not informed until 2017. It has emerged that around 1,500 cases are to be investigated.

A total of 208 cases had “false negatives”, 162 of which were not informed of a review or its outcome, and 17 of whom have died.

On January 29, she was told by oncologists in Limerick that she had six to 12 months to live.

Ms Phelan said that medical professionals “have let me down” and that she has not received a phone call from doctors since they told her she had just months to live.

She said she was informed by one oncologist “she had no answers for me” and suggested palliative chemotherapy. The second oncologist “was so clinical – just no emotions”.

“The way I was treated from the point of view of my cancer is shocking. The fact that they would tell a young woman to go home and that’s it. And I think that’s disgraceful,” she said. 

Before the High Court saga, Ms Phelan had raised €197,950 for clinical trials in Maryland in the United States.

This was €97,950 more than what she required. However, the terminally-ill mother was informed that she was unsuccessful in her bid for a place in the clinical trials. However, she said she is looking at trialling another drug in London, which will act as a immunotherapy drug.

And two weeks ago, she has been able to avail of the drug Pembrolizumab in Ireland, which she said is showing positive effects.

“Two or three weeks ago, I wasn’t feeling good at all. I was starting to go downhill. So this drug is starting to take effect and that’s a huge positive for me,” she said. 

Since being on the new drug, Vicky’s sleeping has improved. She has returned to sleeping on a bed instead of a recliner, which was because of the pain of lying down flat.

When she gets up in the morning, her husband and “right hand man” Jim has already prepared her juice, got the kids ready for the day, and is ready to bring her to her many appointments.

On top of seeing a bioenergy healer in Ennis and receiving high doses of vitamin C infusion in Portlaoise twice a week, Vicky is due to start hyperbaric oxygen therapy in Galway.

“I have an appointment every day, outside of the drugs, just to keep myself ticking over, really, to keep myself alive.”

“I wouldn’t be able to do this without Jim. I would be lost without him, to be honest,” she added. 

With the money raised for her clinical trials, Ms Phelan is now looking at giving back to communities. 

“There are big chunks of money that I got from home in my local community, where they raised €30,000. I am going to give that back because they are looking at setting up a fund for people in the community. Not just for cancer but for financial support.”

She has thanked the people of Ireland for her support throughout the funding campaign and her court case.

“That type of positivity really grows on you and it keeps you going,” she said.