Tuesday 25 June 2019

Smear tests sent to labs not inspected by HSE, says Scally's latest report

Investigation: Dr Gabriel Scally is reporting on smear test scandal. Photo: Frank McGrath
Investigation: Dr Gabriel Scally is reporting on smear test scandal. Photo: Frank McGrath
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Thousands of smear tests from women in Ireland were outsourced to labs across the United States - including Las Vegas and Honolulu - despite the centres not being inspected by CervicalCheck, a report will reveal today.

The latest report by Dr Gabriel Scally, who investigated the CervicalCheck scandal last year, will show the extent to which tests sent to the CPL laboratories in Austin, Texas, ended up being transferred to other centres in San Antonio, Orlando, Las Vegas and Honolulu.

CPL was contracted to examine slides from Ireland between 2010 and 2013 and it no longer works for CervicalCheck.

It was the lab which settled the High Court case brought by Limerick woman Vicky Phelan, who received €2.5m over a test which was misinterpreted in 2011.

CervicalCheck, which commissioned the overseas labs to read smear tests, has previously claimed it was unaware they were being read in locations other than in Austin, Texas.

CPL also used a lab in a San Antonio military base in Texas which has since closed. The report is set to put CervicalCheck back into the spotlight more than a year after it emerged that 221 women who were told their tests were clear went on to develop cervical cancer.

An internal CervicalCheck audit of the tests found they were wrongly read, but a majority of the women were in the dark about the process.

Today's report from Dr Scally is also expected to examine outsourcing by New Jersey-based Quest Diagnostics, which is currently commissioned by CervicalCheck to read slides.

During the High Court case of Ruth Morrissey, who has advanced cervical cancer and successfully sued Quest, it emerged her 2009 test was read in a lab in Wyoming.

Evidence was given by a senior Quest official that CervicalCheck knew tests from Ireland were being read in the lab in Grand Rapids, Wyoming.

It is understood that documents which were sent back to CervicalCheck at the time indicated the lab used was in Wyoming.

Meanwhile, the HSE confirmed it will attempt to clear the existing backlog of 61,000 smear tests by sending the slides to laboratories overseen by Quest across the US and Canada. The labs are in Tetboro in New Jersey, Chantilly in Vancouver, Marlborough in Massachusetts, Horsham in Pennsylvania and Baltimore in Maryland.

The agreement was reached as many women continue to wait 33 weeks for results. The backlog built up last year after thousands of women availed of a free test, outside their normal schedule.

The HSE said the new labs were inspected by CervicalCheck and it is satisfied about quality standards.

Irish Independent

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