Monday 27 May 2019

Harris tells women they must fund their private smear tests

Emma Mhic Mhathúna. Picture: Collins
Emma Mhic Mhathúna. Picture: Collins
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Women who opted to go private and pay for cervical screening in the wake of the CervicalCheck scandal have been told they will not be reimbursed.

Many women are concerned about the safety record of some of the laboratories used by CervicalCheck.

As a result, thousands of women are spending around €85 to have the testing done privately in an Irish-accredited laboratory rather than being sent abroad.

However, a response from Health Minister Simon Harris, in relation to one woman - whose smear test was incorrectly read on three occasions, has revealed she and others will not be reimbursed.

This is despite the delay in conducting an external review of around 3,000 test slides that was promised by the Government weeks ago, and is aimed at giving independent insight into safety standards at the laboratories.

In the wake of the CervicalCheck scandal, women who want to have a test outside of their normal schedule can have it free.

But it must be carried out under the care of CervicalCheck and they have no control over which laboratory it is sent to.

The correspondence from the Department of Health said the clinical advice from the HSE is that there is "no evidence" the clinical and technical aspects of the CervicalCheck programme have performed outside or below international standards or quality guidelines, and all the laboratories have accreditation.

It refused to authorise a payment for tests carried out outside the CervicalCheck programme.

CervicalCheck uses three laboratories: Quest Diagnostics Inc, Teterboro, New Jersey USA; MedLab Pathology Ltd, Dublin; and Coombe Women and Infant's University Hospital, Dublin.

The Dublin Well Woman Centre, which only uses the Coombe laboratory, has seen a big surge in women having their tests done privately.

It comes after figures show the number of women whose smear tests were incorrectly read, leaving them to go on to develop cervical cancer, has risen from 209 to 221.

Earlier this week, Emma Mhic Mhathúna, the mother of five who settled her legal action against the US laboratories for €7.5m, announced the disease has spread to her brain.

The additional 12 women misdiagnosed emerged after audits were carried out on their original slides, confirming a mistake was made in reading them.

The HSE said contact has been made with just six of the additional 12 women.

A process to schedule a meeting and a clinical consultation is in train, said a spokeswoman.

One of the original 209 women still cannot be traced. It is unclear if she had died.

Although 120 women have sought records, including smear test slides, around 70 are still waiting for their records.

Irish Independent

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