Varadkar defends Harris after ex-HSE boss hits out at Health Minister

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Varadkar defends Harris after ex-HSE boss hits out at Health Minister
Varadkar defends Harris after ex-HSE boss hits out at Health Minister

The Taoiseach has defended Health Minister Simon Harris and says the HSE needs to stop passing its problems on to the Department of Health.

In an interview with The Sunday Business Post, the ex-HSE boss accused Mr Harris of being a weak minister, who behaved like a “frightened little boy” during the recent health scandal.

The Taoiseach said people should not forget Mr O’Brien was head of the HSE at the time of its ‘train wreck’ response to the issue.

Leo Varadkar also defended his Health Minister.

“Look at that guy’s [Harris’] record. In the past six months alone, he brought through the referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment and at long last has enacted the Public Health Alcohol Bill legislation that’s going to save a lot of lives,” said the Taoiseach.

“That’s two pretty big achievements by a health minister in six months and I believe anything he may lack in terms of experience or age, he makes up in his commitment and his compassion.”

Yesterday, a number of CervicalCheck scandal victims criticised Mr O’Brien after the interview.

Tony O’Brien

Lorraine Walsh, who was diagnosed with cervical cancer after previously receiving inaccurate test results, said it was a pity that Mr O’Brien “couldn’t take responsibility for the disaster that is the HSE”, that he had led.

She tweeted: “Pity after all this time he couldn’t take responsibility for the disaster that is the HSE, that he lead and desperately failed at leading! Shame on you Tony O’Brien, you made me sick and now 6 years later you make me feel sick!”

The Galway woman is one of the more than 220 women affected by failures in the CervicalCheck screening system.

It emerged earlier this year that 221 women and families were not told about misreported smear tests.

The husband of one of the victims also hit out at Mr O’Brien.

Stephen Teap, whose wife Irene died last year, tweeted along with a link to the story: “Head of the ‘Old Boys Club’ gets taken out, read his bitter response here in this interview.”

In the article, Mr O’Brien described the HSE’s initial response to the crisis as a “trainwreck” with Mr Teap asking: “Who was the leader of this ‘trainwreck’? Where are the questions on his poor leadership skills.”

Mr Harris appointed Mr Teap and Ms Walsh as patient representatives to a steering committee tasked with overseeing changes to the CervicalCheck programme.

– Digital Desk & PA

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