Irish Health Service director resigns amid cancer screening scandal

DUBLIN (Reuters) - The director general of Ireland's Health Service Executive has resigned in the midst of a controversy over a national cervical cancer screening program.

In a statement issued by the Health Service Executive on Thursday evening, Tony O'Brien said his decision to step down would take effect from the close of business on Friday, May 11.

"Mr. O'Brien said that he has made his decision in order to avoid any further impact to the delivery of health and social care services, and in particular the cancer screening services that have become the focus of intense political debate."

The Irish government has ordered a statutory investigation into the national cervical screening program after it emerged that 208 women with cervical cancer whose cases were audited under the program should have had an earlier intervention.

The scandal was brought to light through a high court case taken by a terminally ill woman with cervical cancer who was given an incorrect result.

The government said 17 of the patients involved have since died, though it has not yet established the cause of death, and another 1,500 women who developed cervical cancer over the last 10 years did not have their cases reviewed.

(Reporting by Graham Fahy)

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