About the Inquiry
Dr Michael Bottrill,
retired pathologist of Gisborne and former owner of the Gisborne Medical
Laboratory, was found to be negligent in reading certain cervical smears
in an April 1999 judgement following court action brought by a woman (Mrs
A) who developed invasive cancer. However, the Accident Compensation
Corporation regime barred normal claims of negligence. Mrs A was not awarded
exemplary damages by the Court as gross negligence was not found.
Anecdotal accounts of other
cases, where mis-reading of smear tests by Dr Bottrill were alleged, were
brought to the attention of the HFA shortly after this.
The HFA decided there was
sufficient concern to warrant re-reading of all Dr Bottrills cervical
smear slides which were still kept (from 1990 to 1996, when he retired).
When the first fifth of these
slides had been re-read by a Sydney laboratory, it reported that Dr Bottrill
had picked up only 15 percent of those found by the Sydney laboratory
to have high grade abnormalities.
The Minister of Health announced
an Inquiry into the under-reporting of cervical smear abnormalities in
the Gisborne region immediately after the HFAs announcements of
the interim results of the re-reading of Dr Botrills smear slides.
Frequently asked questions about
Q When will the Inquiry be starting,
and where will it be held?
A The first hearing of the Inquiry
will be on Monday, 10 April 2000 at 10.00 a.m. The venue for the Inquiry
hearings will be at Level 1, South Tower, Quay Point Building, 1 Gladstone
Road, Gisborne (access from Reads Quay).
Q How long is the Inquiry expected to
be sitting in Gisborne?
A The Inquiry sat in Gisborne from
10 April until 11 May (inclusive). It then took a break and resumed hearings
on Monday, 3 July and sat until the 6th of August 2000. It will reconvene
again in September 2000. The reason for the break between mid-May and
early July is because of the professional commitments of Professor Duggan,
the pathologist on the Panel. Also, the HFA analysis of the Gisborne smear
re-screening was not available until July and that was very important
evidence for the Panel to hear.
Q What is the Inquiry about?
A Essentially, the Inquiry is to
try and find out the reasons for the apparently high under-reporting of
abnormal smears in the Tairawhiti region, and to try and find out if there
are other areas that may have similar levels of under-reporting. One of
the main areas of focus for the Inquiry is to ensure that all of the necessary
safeguards are in place for the National Cervical Screening Programme.
The Inquiry has a national focus, and is concerned how the National Cervical
Screening Programme operates and delivers cervical screening services
to women throughout NZ, and how other professional bodies relate to and
interact with that Programme.
Q Is there room for the public to attend
the hearings of the Inquiry?
A There is public seating for approximately
100-150. The Inquiry will operate very much like a formal Court hearing.
The Inquiry Panel members sit at the front of the room (where the Judge
would normally sit). There is a Registrar in front, a witness box, and
then rows of tables for the lawyers. The public seating, like in a Court
room, is a separate area at the back of the hearing room.
Q What about children attending the Inquiry
with their mothers or whanau?
A. Like any normal Court sitting,
children will be permitted inside the hearing room as long as they sit
quietly and do not disrupt the proceedings. It is important that the Inquiry
Panel, lawyers and other members of the public are able to hear the evidence
being given without disruption.
Q Are there any other facilities available
for the children at the hearings?
A. The Minister of Health offered
childcare as part of a support package to women affected. Women presenting
submissions to the Cervical Screening Inquiry can access the childcare
they need by telephoning 0800 367 8473.
Q Can women affected by the mis-reading
of smears in Gisborne apply to the Inquiry Panel for funding for transport
or childcare to enable them to attend the hearings?
A. The Minister of Health has announced that any woman affected by
the misreadings and who is making a submission to the Inquiry may apply
for childcare and information on transport options by telephoning 0800
Q Who appeared as witnesses at the Inquiry?
A There was be some evidence from
women who have been affected by the cervical smear mis-readings. There
were then witnesses from the Ministry of Health, Health Funding Authority,
Professor David Skegg (NZ), Dr Euphemia McGoogan (UK), Cancer Society,
Womens Health Information and Resource Trust, Royal College of Pathologists
of Australasia, Medical Council of New Zealand, the Association of Community
Laboratories, Telarc/IANZ, a representative from the reviewing laboratory
in Sydney, Tairawhiti Healthcare Ltd, the Iwi Health Authorities, Medlab
Gisborne/Hamilton, Womens Health Action Trust.
Q Were the media allowed at the Inquiry
A Whenever the hearings were being
heard publicly, there was no restrictions on media attendance at the Inquiry.
The Inquiry Panel did, however, reserve the right to limit media presence
if it is found to be interrupting the proper conduct of the proceedings.
It was also open for any witness to indicate to the Panel if they require
restrictions in respect of the evidence they will be giving. The Panel
considered each witnesses' request on an individual basis, but naturally
made any rulings required to protect confidential information, such as
information that identified women affected who gave evidence.
Q Will the Inquiry Panel be making any
media statements during the course of the Inquiry?
A No. The Inquiry Panel will reserve
any media statements until after they have provided their report to the
Minister of Health. This is expected to be about two months after the
conclusion of the Inquiry hearings. Counsel assisting the Inquiry will
be the only source of media comment during the course of the Inquiry.
Q What happens after the hearings of
the Inquiry have finished?
A The Inquiry Panel will review
all of the evidence they have heard throughout the hearings. They will
then draft a report which will contain the Panels findings and any
recommendations. The report is scheduled for release on April 11,2001,
and will be posted on this site.
Q Is the Government bound to act on any
recommendations made by the Inquiry Panel?
A No. The Government is not bound
by any recommendations made by the Inquiry in its final report. However,
the Minister of Health set up the Inquiry to find out about any necessary
safeguards for the National Cervical Screening Programme in Gisborne and
elsewhere so that they could be implemented.
For further information contact Royden Hindle
or Hanne Janes, who can be contacted through the Inquiry office on (09)