| 12.4°C Dublin

'It's ludicrous women can get a tin of paint but not a lifesaving smear test,' says campaigning widower

Close

Battle: The lives of Stephen Teap, his wife Irene and their sons Oscar and Noah changed forever when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in September 2015

Battle: The lives of Stephen Teap, his wife Irene and their sons Oscar and Noah changed forever when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in September 2015

Battle: The lives of Stephen Teap, his wife Irene and their sons Oscar and Noah changed forever when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in September 2015

Health chiefs have been challenged to tackle the "ludicrous" situation in which women can go shopping but still cannot get a potentially lifesaving smear test.

Stephen Teap, whose wife Irene died from cancer after two false negative smears, says health screenings that were paused because of the Covid-19 pandemic needs to be reinstated as soon as is safely possible.

He says a proper roadmap needs to be put in place for it because cancer does not pause in the midst of a pandemic.

"Nobody is questioning why they were paused, given what was going on, but it was paused without any plan on how it was going to reopen," said Mr Teap.

"You can go in to Woodie's and B&Q to get a tin of paint but the screening services are still not being reopened. There has to be a plan in place or something transparent being worked on.

"Obviously a screening programme will have to be operated differently with Covid-19 given the restrictions that are in place and with personal protective equipment and everything.

"It is the HSE voice I want to hear.

"Is it working on a plan?"

Mother-of-two Irene Teap of Carrigaline, Co Cork, died in July 2017.

She had been diagnosed with stage two cancer in 2015, following two false negative CervicalCheck smear tests in 2010 and 2013.

Since her death, Mr Teap has fought for accountability and improvements within the health system.

He said screening cannot be "put on the long finger" as this would lead to delayed diagnoses and treatment for patients.

"There has been a lot of positive work within the screening services so the last thing we need is a backlog. The longer we go without the screening services the bigger the backlog is going to be.

"Then you have people who might not be showing physical symptoms but have early indicators which a screening programme may pick up."

Meanwhile, Irish journalist Peter Cluskey, who in 2018 lost his wife Adrienne Cullen (58) to cervical cancer as a result of medical negligence at a Dutch hospital, said there was a delicate balance to be achieved in terms of health screenings and dealing with Covid-19.

He believes every effort has to be made to reintroduce services in a timely manner.

"Of course, everything possible has to be done to prevent any new flare-up of Covid-19. On the other hand, screening for other conditions, including cervical cancer, has to resume as quickly as possible to ensure that lives are not lost because the tests are not being carried out," he said.

"Governments are telling cancer patients and people with other illnesses national health services are open for business other than Covid-19.

"Having cancer is a frightening experience. Having cancer in an environment where coronavirus is the medical priority and is swallowing all resources must be terrifying.

"The fear of being forgotten by the system that should be there to support you in your hour of need - something Adrienne experienced here in the Netherlands - that's the loneliest and most frightening experience of all."

Ms Cullen, who lived in the Netherlands with her husband, successfully sued her hospital, UMC Utrecht, for medical negligence after it "lost" test results in 2011 that showed she had cancer.

Irish Independent