Neary victims in limbo as they wait for government to do the

first_img“MICHAEL NEARY IS a dysfunctional individual who damaged women. Today he is a free agent, drawing a pension and we are left in limbo.”That was the opening statement from one of his patients at a press briefing this morning, the latest attempt by campaigners to encourage Health Minister James Reilly to resolve the issue of compensation for the 35 victims excluded from the Neary redress scheme.In February 2012, Reilly said his proposals for dealing with the sensitive situation were at an advanced stage and that his department were in talks with the Attorney General.Since then, the women have not received word of any further development.Campaigner Sheila O’Connor noted that although it has been 15 years since the story about Neary’s “bizarre practices” broke, “we still have 35 women injured and without compensation”.She said the victims have “strong medical supports” and there is no question about wrongdoing on Neary’s part. They were excluded from the initial redress scheme on technicalities following Judge Maureen Harding Clark’s 2004 deliberations. That system referred only to two narrow groups, one of which excluded all women over the age of 40. It compensated about 200 patients at a cost of more than €20 million.Marie Raeburn was 40 years and three days old when she underwent her surgery. Her womb and ovaries were removed unnecessarily.“I have been writing, phoning TDs. It is hard to be positive,” she told the room of reporters, supporters and fellow survivors at Buswell’s Hotel in Dublin.A meeting has been sought with the Minister and the Taoiseach but response letters from government have not addressed the request.“It really is just not OK,” continued O’Connor. “I’ve seen young women turn to mature women, and mature women turn to old women.“The women will tell you how bitterly disappointed they are. We believed [Reilly] – and we would have given him leeway.”A commitment to resolve the issue is included in the coalition’s Programme for Government.Horror storiesNeary was struck off the Medical Register in September 2003 following a lengthy hearing before the Medical Council. A series of investigations and inquires into his practices had started years earlier.The probes revealed that Neary performed negligent, damaging and unnecessary gynaecological procedures on a number women at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda.The issue only came to light after two midwives working at the Maternity Unit raised concerns that the surgeon was carrying out an unusual number of caesarean hysterectomies. They also felt that some of his clinical practices were “out of date”.The Lourdes Hospital Inquiry was established by the Government in 2004 after which a large number of women were compensated. It found that since Neary began his work as an obstetrician in the hospital, the rate of casesarian hysterectomies was extremely high.Altogether he performed 129 such procedures which involve removing the woman’s womb shortly after she has given birth. The average for the majority of obstetricians’ career is about five, an RTÉ documentary revealed after investigating the case.Women have been compensated through both the redress scheme and through civil actions when the Statue of Limitations of two or three years allowed.The amounts varied from €80,000 to €300,000, depending on severity of situation, damage and number of children.The scheme established after the 2004 report has been described as “fair” and something the victims were “content” with. The only problem was the exclusions.“The number [35] has not risen,” maintains O’Connor. “The government does not have to worry about being overwhelmed by other people.”“We just want to get on with our lives…see closure,” adds Mary Packenham, who also sat at the top table at today’s conference. “It is constantly in the back of our minds so we can’t get on with our lives.”No showTwo years ago, a similar meeting organised by Patient Focus attracted representatives from each of Ireland’s political parties. Today, just one senator and one TD spoke up the conference room, a stone’s throw from Leinster House.“It is shameful,” O’Connor said at the top of the briefing.Labour Senator Mary Moran and her colleague, Louth TD Gerald Nash, echoed the sentiment. Nash said he was “deeply frustrated” at the lack of action, while Moran promised to continue pressurising Ministers on the matter. She also expressed disappointment that more of her party colleagues were not in attendance.What next?As the Statute of Limitations has run its course for all 35 women, civil action is not an option. Importantly, Michael Neary no longer has insurance.“The plan?” says O’Connor. “To stay here until we die.”Asked about the possibility of strong protest, the campaigners noted they were a small group “not into throwing stink bombs”.The power is in their argument and in the truth, they say. “We shouldn’t have to throw a tantrum in a democracy.”February 2012: Compensation on way for women excluded from Neary redress schemelast_img read more