Wednesday 23 October 2019

'Smear test backlog should be cleared by end of summer' - Simon Harris

Loving mum: Emma Mhic Mhathúna left five children. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Loving mum: Emma Mhic Mhathúna left five children. Photo: Steve Humphreys

The backlog of cervical smear tests has now reduced to 49,130 and should be cleared by the end of the summer , Health Minister Simon Harris told the Dail.

Women in many cases have waited 33 weeks for the return of test results because of the backlog.

He was speaking during and debate on the latest Gabriel Scally report which showed tests were outsourced to ten labs which were not approved by CervicalCheck.

Mr Harris said an internal HSE inquiry into “who knew what and when “ in relation to the CervicalCheck scandal is still underway more than a year after the Vicky Phelan revelations.

Ms Phelan revealed how CervicalCheck audited the test results of women who went on to develop cancer and found they got wrong test results.But the majority were not informed of its findings.

He told Opposition deputies that it was his intention to issue an apology to the 221 women involved in the controversy and their next of kin.

He was working out how best this “robust” apology can be  given to the women.

Asked when the auditing of test results – involving a lookback at slides of women who develop cancer – would resume he said this would happen at the end of the year.

The audit is aimed at finding out if abnormalities should have been picked up.

He intends to bring legislation setting up a tribunal where women can take cases for alleged negligence before the Dail next week.

The hope is that it will be passed before the summer recess and that it will be in place by the autumn.

He said he does not yet know if it will include a  provision for women whose cancer returns to deteriorates to return to the tribunal.

It will be three years at least before there is an expansion of Irish lab testing facilities in the Coombe, he added.

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