CervicalCheck knew smear slides were sent to Wyoming lab, court told

Dr Kennedy, formerly of Quest Diagnostics, said they were not hiding use of other lab

Dr Ronald Kennedy, who retired as director of quality assurance at Quest Diagnostics earlier this month, gave evidence on Friday in the continuing action by Ruth Morrissey, who is terminally ill. Photograph: Collins Courts

Dr Ronald Kennedy, who retired as director of quality assurance at Quest Diagnostics earlier this month, gave evidence on Friday in the continuing action by Ruth Morrissey, who is terminally ill. Photograph: Collins Courts

 

The former head of quality assurance at US laboratory Quest Diagnostics has defended sending smear slides of Irish women for testing by a laboratory allegedly not stipulated in its contract with CervicalCheck.

Dr Ronald Kennedy was giving evidence in the case of Ruth Morrissey who has sued over the alleged misreading if her smear slides by two different US laboratories in 2009 and 2012.

“I don’t think we were hiding we were using a laboratory in Grand Rapids, Wyoming,” he said.

When Patrick Treacy SC, for Co Limerick woman Ruth Morrissey, put to him the programme manager of CervicalCheck, John Gleeson, previously told the court he did not know anything about the Grand Rapids laboratory being used, Dr Kennedy said CervicalCheck did know.

Dr Kennedy, who retired as director of quality assurance at Quest Diagnostics earlier this month, gave evidence on Friday in the continuing action by Ms Morrissey, who is terminally ill.

She has sued the HSE, Quest Diagnostics and another US laboratory, Medlab, over alleged misreading of her smear tests taken under the CervicalCheck screening programme in 2009 and 2012. She is also claiming punitive damages against the HSE and Quest relating to the issue of governance.

On Friday, Dr Kennedy said the Quest Diagnostics contract began in 2008 and cytotechnologists were assigned to work on Irish smear slides only with a ten day turnaround expected. Quest Diagnostics answered to the National Cancer Screening Service in Ireland (NCSS), he said.

When Mr Treacy suggested Quest Diagnostics took it upon themselves to send slides to Grand Rapids, and there was “not a shred of evidence” notice was given to the NCSS, Dr Kennedy replied:

“There is no evidence we took it upon ourselves.”

‘Goody surge’

The laboratories used were adhering to Irish standards but Ms Morrissey’s 2009 slide was “part of the Goody surge”, he said, a reference to an uptake in the number of women here and the UK seeking cervical smear tests after the death of the 27-year-old reality TV star Jade Goody from cervical cancer.

In the Spring and Summer of 2009, a large number of Irish women went for smear tests and that meant Quest Laboratories exceeded its capacity for the ten day turnaround time and there were capacity issues, he said.

That was why slides were sent to Grand Rapids and Quest had a backlog of Irish slides, he said. He said 23,000 Irish slides were tested in Grand Rapids. He also said cancer rates among Irish women had decreased year after year once Quest Diagnostics became involved.

“I don’t accept we were doing a disservice to the women of Ireland.”

Referring to the reporting of Ms Morrissey’s slide sent to Quest Diagnostics in August 2009, Dr Kennedy said the initials of two cytotechnologists were on the report which indicated there was full manual screening of the slide.

One of the screeners was twenty years with Quest Diagnostics while the other was thirty years with the firm, he said.

Michael Cush SC, for Quest Diagnostics, told the court it does not intend to call the two cytotechnologists to give evidence.

Ms Morrissey and her husband Paul Morrissey, of Monaleen, Co Limerick, have sued the HSE; Quest Diagnostics Ireland Ltd, with offices at Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, Dublin; and Medlab Pathology Ltd, with offices at Sandyford Business Park, Dublin 18.

It is claimed there was failure to correctly report and diagnose and misinterpretation of her smear samples taken in 2009 and 2012. The HSE has admitted it owed a duty of care to Ms Morrissey but not her husband. The laboratories deny all claims.

The case resumes on Tuesday before Mr Justice Kevin Cross.