On 24th March 2020, it was announced that the establishment of the CervicalCheck Tribunal to process claims by women affected by issues at the State’s cervical cancer screening programme has been delayed due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
The announcement was made on the Tribunal’s website. The notice confirmed the decision was made “in response to both the measures which were announced by the Taoiseach on 12 March and the understanding that the intended claimants may be considered to be at risk if they were to contract the virus”.
The notice confirmed that updates will be provided as the situation develops through the usual channels and all steps to establish the tribunal will be taken “as soon as medical advice recommends that it would be safe and prudent” to do so.
The 221+ Group, who support and speak on behalf of women directly affected by the issues surrounding the CervicalCheck programme, welcomed the tribunal’s consideration of “the inherent vulnerability that cervical cancer creates in all that suffer it and the respect shown for that vulnerability in the current circumstances.”
However, the Group expressed concern that the delay may cause the statute of limitations to be reached for some women bringing a claim before the tribunal.
In a statement, the group wrote that the Department of Health “has acknowledged this as a concern and has assured us that it is examining various options to address the issue and to ensure that no prospective claimant is disadvantaged by this necessary decision. 221+ will continue to advocate actively on this matter until it is no longer a concern”
Once the tribunal is established, it will provide an alternative mechanism for processing claims arising out of the failures of the CervicalCheck Scheme and allow women and families affected to seek redress outside of the more adversarial courts system. Ms Justice Mary Irvine of the Supreme Court will be appointed Chair of the Tribunal, with Mr Justice Michael Peart and Mr Justice Brian McGovern expected to be appointed as ordinary members of the Tribunal. Further updates are expected to be provided on the tribunal’s website, www.cervicalchecktribunal.ie.
About the author: Mark Jones, Solicitor on The Medical Negligence Team