Business of Committee

Before we commence our business, Deputy Cullinane wants to raise a point of order.

We have an hour on CervicalCheck and maybe more if we raise it ourselves during the second round of questions. Is Mr. McCallion present today and, if not, why not?

Mr. John Connaghan

Mr. McCallion is on leave today. That leave was booked some time ago. He has a family holiday and is away for a week. He will be back early next week.

We are joined by the Comptroller and Auditor General, Mr. Seamus McCarthy, as a permanent witness to the committee. He is joined by Ruth Foley, deputy director of audit. Apologies have been received from Deputy Pat Deering. We are dealing with the Department of Health and the HSE under the Department of Health appropriation accounts, Vote 38 for 2016 and the HSE financial statements 2017. However, the committee decided to provide up to one hour at the beginning of the meeting to deal specifically with the cervical cancer crisis issue. We will proceed with our examination of the financial statements after that. We will take the routine business of the committee in the afternoon.

There are a number of items relevant to this morning's meeting in correspondence which I am putting on the record so they can be discussed in detail in public. The first is Nos. 1452 A and 1457 providing briefing documentation for today’s meeting from the HSE. We will note and publish that.

Correspondence No. 1453 from Mr. Connaghan is his opening statement for today’s meeting. We will note and publish it. Correspondence Nos. 1458 and 1459 from Mr. Derek Finnegan of the Department of Health are providing briefing documents and a note on the Scally report. We note and publish them. Next is correspondence No. 1460 from Mr Jim Breslin, Secretary General of the Department of Health, providing his opening statement. It is noted and published.

Correspondence No. 1427 from Mr. Ciarán Breen, director of the State Claims Agency, dated 25 June 2018, provides information on the management of legal costs and open disclosure as requested by the committee on 14 June 2018. Mr. Breen's correspondence deals with the State Claims Agency management approach to CervicalCheck cancer misdiagnosis litigation; and details including the status of screening and non-screening cancer misdiagnosis claims for cervical cancer, bowel cancer and breast cancer. We note and publish this.

Correspondence No. 1432 from Mr. Ray Mitchell of the HSE is in respect of Dr. Scally’s access to CervicalCheck records. It is noted and published. Correspondence No. 1438 from Mr. Ray Mitchell, dated 29 June 2018, is in respect of the attendance of particular officials at today’s meeting. We have a relevant note on the screen. We are not having a discussion; it is just by way of information. It states in respect of the point about CervicalCheck attendees that at this point it is important to advise the committee that Charles O'Hanlon is on sick leave and certified unwell and, therefore, will not be in a position to attend the committee.

In respect of Dr. Gráinne Flannelly, she is employed by Holles Street and indicated that she is no longer with the HSE. Since our meeting last week we have written to Dr. Flannelly in her course of employment and she sent an email back to the committee, reference 1451, which we note and publish. Dr. Flannelly was the clinical director of CervicalCheck. In her email, she thanks the committee for the invitation to appear before it on a voluntary witness basis to address the issues regarding the CervicalCheck programme. She states that she is at present preparing to meet with Dr. Scally as part of his investigation next week, and that she is currently in the UK where she has work commitments until the middle of next week. That is now this week. She goes on to state that she would value the opportunity to help our committee by attending as per our request on a voluntary basis but in view of the above she requests that this be rearranged to a different date. She states that she will liaise with the clerk in respect of rescheduling it.

I want to put on record that while she is not here today, Dr. Flannelly has given a definite commitment that she is happy to meet with us at a more suitable time. I think we will have to come back to that. We will discuss the timing of our meetings as part of our work programme in the afternoon. We will not set the time now.

We should ask if she will come in next week.

We made a request last week for specific individuals. One is on certified sick leave and the other will come on another date.

Correspondence No. 1439 provides follow up information from the HSE in respect of the National Treatment Purchase Fund, NTPF. Correspondence Nos. 1440 and 1441 are from an individual making inquiries about HSE circulars not circulated or implemented and HSE employees who did not make the criteria for the first round of the Haddington Road regularisation process. All those items of correspondence are relevant to our discussion this morning, which is why I referenced them in advance.