Monday 19 August 2019

GPs deny formal request for free tests after smear scandal struck

‘Ludicrous’: Chris Goodey challenged Health Minister Simon Harris
‘Ludicrous’: Chris Goodey challenged Health Minister Simon Harris
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

A GP representative body said at no point did it "formally call for or lobby" the Government to provide free repeat smear tests for women last year after the CervicalCheck scandal erupted.

The National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) said it was "not privy" to the advice received by Health Minister Simon Harris from his advisers and it did not take part in any decision making process with regard to offering the repeat smears.

The statement follows calls on Mr Harris by Fianna Fáil spokesman on health TD Stephen Donnelly to be more precise about the advice he received before making the offer in late April last year.

Mr Harris insisted again yesterday the decision was consistent with the advice of his Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan and the offer involved a consultation with a GP and not just a test.

He added: "It is a little bit disappointing that some are choosing to play party politics with such an important issue in relation to women's health. I think it is actually more than disappointing. It is a little bit crass."

He has previously referred to GPs highlighting how they were inundated with worried women seeking repeat tests and that he was contacted on Twitter by the President of the NAGP Dr Maitiu O'Tuathail who is currently on holiday.

Dr O'Tuathail tweeted the minister in April 28 last year stating: "Simon can I talk to you regards the CervicalCheck crisis. We are being overwhelmed with worried patients and we have had an emergency meeting today and feel that worried patients should be allowed to have a repeat smear, whether they are due one or not. Would you support this?"

Yesterday Chris Goodey, chief executive of the NAGP, said: "It is ludicrous to think that a minister, who has direct access to the chief medical officer, the CEO of CervicalCheck, the then director general of the HSE along with a countless entourage of advisors, would make such a decision for the women of Ireland based on an informal conversation with a GP.

"What we have now been told is that the waiting time for smear test results has increased from six weeks to 33 weeks as a direct result of the inability of laboratories to cope with demand. The capacity of laboratories to provide these additional smears should have been addressed prior to offering repeat smears."

Mr Harris expressed optimism yesterday the backlog will be cleared over the summer now that the HSE has eventually found additional laboratory capacity which it hopes to copperfasten shortly.

Irish Independent

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