HSE failed to reply to cancer check calls

Woman told two smear tests which initially showed no abnormalities were wrong

One of the 209 women caught up in the CervicalCheck controversy did not receive responses to two phone calls she made to the Health Service Executive’s helpline trying to find out more about her case.

The Leinster woman, who did not want to be identified, attempted to contact the screening programme twice but did not receive responses until Friday after The Irish Times raised her case with the HSE.

The woman was not contacted by the HSE among the 209 women who were identified in audits as having had incorrect smear tests because she had already been informed about them by her doctor in 2017.

The HSE’s serious incident management team, set up to contact the women, prioritised contacting 162 among the 209 who were never told of the audits conducted after their diagnosis showing different results to their original smears.


"She was distraught because she hadn't been phoned back," said the woman's solicitor, Michael Boylan of the Dublin firm Augustus Cullen Law.

“She didn’t know if she was being counted as one of the people who had been contacted and told of this. She didn’t know if she was in the group of 209 women.”

Smear tests

Mr Boylan said his client, who is 35, was diagnosed with cervical cancer in March 2016. In mid-2017 she was told by her treating gynaecologist that audits conducted by CervicalCheck after her diagnosis found smear tests she had in 2011 and 2015, which initially showed no abnormalities, were wrong.

The doctor likened the audit to the task set for children in the Where's Wally? series of books, in which they have to find a comic character hidden in a large group.

“What they meant was they knew she had cancer so they were forensically checking the smears again for something they might not have found the first time to identify abnormalities,” said Mr Boylan.

“She was not too impressed,” he added of his client’s reaction to the comparison. “It was pretty insensitive.”

The solicitor said the woman wanted to avail of the Government’s package, including medical cards and other costs, set up for women affected and was concerned it might not have been available to her as the HSE had not contacted her and she could not reach them on the helpline.

The woman underwent a hysterectomy after her diagnosis and is clear of cancer now. She is hoping to have a child through surrogacy with eggs frozen prior to her surgery and is seeking funds to pay for it.

The HSE contacted the woman on Friday and agreed to meet her at her home early next month.

A HSE spokeswoman said it had “put in place a protocol and process to engage with all 209 women to discuss the measures announced by Government in recent weeks”.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is News Editor of The Irish Times