Saturday 23 March 2019

Taoiseach says Government 'acted in good faith' as 78,000 people wait for cervical tests

Leo Varadkar Photo: PA
Leo Varadkar Photo: PA

Wayne O’Connor

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he expects screening times for cervical cancer to return to normal, amid criticism for creating backlogs in the system with a “knee-jerk” reaction to the Cervical Check scandal last year.

Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin said the Government is responsible for delays in screening times. He told the Dáil that labs and GPs are writing to Health Minister Simon Harris concerned about waiting times.

Mr Martin said they are worried about slides going out of date before tests are carried out and patients facing lengthy waits for test results.

He said money spent on carrying out the extra tests could have been better spent elsewhere.

“There was no clinical rationale for this decision. It was a knee-jerk reaction and a political decision.

“That has seen €10m spent that could have been used elsewhere.”

It comes as the Oireachtas Health Committee heard of a backlog of 78,000 tests in the system.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he often reflects on the government’s decision to offer women cervical cancer check in the wake of the testing scandal last year.

He acknowledged there are delays but he expects the waiting period to eventually return to normal. Average waiting times currently stand at 13 weeks.

Test results are usually expected to be delivered in a four to six week window.

“I reflect a lot on Cervical Check,” Mr Varadkar said.

“I reflect on how we handled it as a Government and if we could have handled it better.

“We were under great pressure at that time but we acted in good faith.”

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