US firm at centre of cancer-screening scandal refuses comment

Spokeswoman for Clinical Pathology Laboratories says it has ‘no comment at this time’

Ireland’s cervical screening programme, CervicalCheck, uses three principal laboratories to process screenings: MedLab Pathology,  Quest Diagnostics  and the Coombe Hospital. File photograph: iStockPhoto

Ireland’s cervical screening programme, CervicalCheck, uses three principal laboratories to process screenings: MedLab Pathology, Quest Diagnostics and the Coombe Hospital. File photograph: iStockPhoto

 

CPL laboratories, the US company at the centre of the cervical cancer screening scandal in Ireland, has declined to comment on the deepening controversy.

Vicky Phelan (43), settled a High Court action against Clinical Pathology Laboratories (CPL), based in Texas, for €2.5 million last week, with no admission of liability.

It emerged from a 2014 audit of smear tests that Ms Phelan had received erroneous results for a smear test she underwent in 2011, but she was not told about this until last September. She is now terminally ill.

When contacted by The Irish Times, a spokeswoman for the Texas-based company said it had “no comment at this time” about the controversy.

CPL Laboratories, which is located in Austin, is owned by Australian healthcare giant Sonic Healthcare. The Sydney-headquartered company has operations in Australia, America and in Europe, including Ireland.

Reviewing smear test results: A decision on whether US companies will continue to be contracted by the HSE will not be made until after the Government’s inquiry is completed. File photograph: Getty Images
Reviewing smear test results: A decision on whether US companies will continue to be contracted by the HSE will not be made until after the Government’s inquiry is completed. File photograph: Getty Images

CPL’s sister company, MedLab Pathology Ltd, is headquartered in Sandyford, Dublin and works closely with CPL in Austin on laboratory testing for cervical cancer. The Irish operations were established in 2010.

Three principal laboratories

Ireland’s cervical screening programme, CervicalCheck, uses three principal laboratories to process screenings: MedLab Pathology, the Sandyford-based sister company to CPL; Quest Diagnostics, a New Jersey-based company; and the Coombe Hospital. The HSE said all the laboratories have ISO accreditation and are certified by the relevant national authorities.

Former master of the Rotunda hospital, Sam Coulter-Smith, has called for an urgent review into the outsourcing of smear tests to the US 

A decision on whether the US companies will continue to be contracted by the HSE will not be made until after the Government’s inquiry is completed.

Sonic Healthcare, which is listed on the Australian stock exchange, had revenues of more than €3 billion last year.

Former master of the Rotunda hospital, Sam Coulter-Smith, has called for an urgent review into the outsourcing of smear tests to the US in the wake of the cervical cancer screening controversy.

He told The Irish Times last week he had warned the government a decade ago against testing being moved to private companies overseas, because he was worried that resulting problems would mean cancer cases being missed.

“There were always going to be issues in relation to translating between the two services,” he said, adding that there was also a need for multidisciplinary team meetings to discuss various degrees of abnormality.