Written answers

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Department of Health

Symphysiotomy Issues

Photo of Tommy BroughanTommy Broughan (Dublin North East, Independent)
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152. To ask the Minister for Health the reason there is such a short timeframe during which applications may be made for redress under the scheme from women who underwent the procedure of symphysiotomy; and his views that the short timeframe for receipt of applications could have the effect of excluding women who underwent the procedure of symphysiotomy but have since emigrated and are no longer resident in this jurisdiction or women who underwent the procedure but who are now suffering from dementia. [46608/14]

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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The Surgical Symphysiotomy Payment Scheme commenced on 10th November 2014. Government has agreed that the Scheme will also include payments for the small number of women who have had a pubiotomy. The Scheme is designed to be simple, straightforward and non-adversarial, and aims to minimise the stress for the women concerned. Many are elderly and may not want to experience the delay, publicity and financial risks that sometimes come with a court case. I met the three support groups representing the women last September and their views have helped to shape the Scheme. The Scheme is supported by two of the three groups.

Judge Maureen Harding Clark, retired High Court Judge has been appointed as independent Assessor to the Scheme. Judge Clark, from her previous work on the Lourdes Hospital Redress Scheme, brings valuable experience to the role of determining the appropriate level of award for each individual.

The Symphysiotomy Scheme is open to women who are still living and who underwent a surgical symphysiotomy or pubiotomy in the State between the years 1940 and 1990. Awards of €50,000, €100,000 and €150,000 will be offered. Details of the Terms of the Scheme and how to access application forms have been widely advertised.

Awards will be exempt from tax and legislation is being put in place as a matter of urgency to ensure they are also exempt from being taken into consideration for means tested welfare schemes and for the Nursing Home Support Scheme.

It is not a requirement for a woman to retain a Solicitor to make an application. However, the Scheme makes provision for applicants to have legal and other advice available to them in preparing to submit an application if they wish.

Applications must be made within 20 working days of the Commencement Date, which was 10 November, 2014. The Closing Date for receipt of applications is therefore Friday 5 December 2014. In exceptional circumstances, Judge Clark has discretion to extend the time for receipt of applications by an additional 20 working days, that is, to Wednesday, 14 January 2015. It is important to note that in the event of a delay arising in the compilation of a woman's supporting documentation due to difficulty in obtaining medical records, the application should be submitted within the time period set out in the Scheme with a written explanation of the reasons for the absence of the documentation. The details of this provision are set out in the terms and conditions of the Scheme, which are available on the Scheme’s website.

Judge Clark reported that by last Friday, 28 November more than 140 women had applied for awards under the Scheme and to date conditional offers have been made totalling €1,450,000. There are 4 working days left to apply, including today and I would urge every eligible woman or her representative to submit her application within the appointed timeframe.

My Department will be making payments in the case of 7 women shortly and others should have payments before Christmas.

The Scheme is voluntary and I would like to emphasise that women will not waive their rights to take their cases to court as a precondition to participating in the Scheme. Women may opt out of the Scheme at any stage in the process, up to the time of accepting their award. It is only on accepting the offer of an award that a woman must agree to discontinue her legal proceedings against any party arising out of a symphysiotomy or pubiotomy.

Government hopes the implementation of this Scheme will help to bring closure on this issue for the women concerned and their families.


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