Sunday 15 September 2019

INMO plead with women to continue to participate in vital screening programmes

INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha. Photo: David Conachy
INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha. Photo: David Conachy

Ralph Riegel

IRISH nurses and midwives pleaded with women not to be deterred by the cervical cancer test scandal from participating in critical screening programmes.

Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) officials warned that the greatest concern would be if Irish women, in the wake of the controversy, decided not to take part in screening programmes.

INMO General Secretary Phil Ni Sheaghdha said people must not lose sight of the fact that such screening programmes are designed to lead to the early detection of cancers which can help save lives.

"The issue for us is that women are not in any way discouraged from attending screening programmes," she warned at the INMOs 99th conference in Cork.

"We encourage women to continue to attend screening programmes."

The INMO boss said their members had worked very hard to put women at ease in a screening programme which can be both intimate and, for some, quite uncomfortable.

INMO members work had helped thousands participate in vital screening schemes - and encouraged people to return for repeat, regular tests.

"We do not want that (work) in any way negatively affected as a result of this."

Ms Ni Sheaghdha said the INMO was much more concerned with ensuring Irish women continue to participate in vital screening programmes than any potential resignations over the revelations of the past week.

"Whether people should resign, that is secondary as far as we are concerned. 'Get on and fix the issues' is our main concern right now."

"What we are saying is that there is a statutory inquiry and if it is found that these people have anything to answer for, that is a matter for their employers."

But the INMO official acknowledged that there was "massive concern" amongst their members over the shocking revelations of the past week.

"We have written to the HSE on their behalf asking that they specify guidelines (that) are set out," she said.

"We got a response assuring us that the information would be available and we await it."

The INMO official said if anyone had concerns, they should immediately contact medical professionals.

"If you have any concern, come in and talk to us and we will look at your history and give any reassurance we can," she vowed.

However, the INMO confirmed they discovered the scale of the problem with the cervical screening programme via the media and not from the HSE or Department of Health.

"We found out about it through the media. We made contact with the HSE in writing asking for guidance to be issued. So the contact has come from us. (Clearly) we are not satisfied."

"We would prefer if people who are in the frontline trying to reassure very worried women were given the correct and accurate information in advance of them interacting with these women," she declared.

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