Government awaiting details of how many of 209 smear tests analysed in US
TD claims ‘most of botch up’ in the US as 10 legal cases relate to smear tests in America
The HSE should supply information on where the 209 smear tests were analysed, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said. File photograph: Getty Images
The Government is still awaiting a response from the HSE about how many of the 209 women who should have received earlier intervention in their cervical cancer diagnosis, had their smear tests analysed in the US.
Opposition claims have been made that “most of the botch up” was in the United States following confirmation that the outstanding nine legal cases in the cervical screening controversy are linked to smear tests in the US.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Health Simon Harris stressed however that all the laboratories used by the CervicalCheck screening programme - two in the US and one in Ireland - are quality assured and internationally recognised.
Mr Varadkar said after a Cabinet briefing on Friday that “we have no evidence that any of them are substandard”.
But he said they would examine this as part of the scoping review being led by Dr Gabriel Scally ahead of a statutory inquiry. “I know there is a genuine concern people have about this. People don’t like the idea of their tests going to America for examinations.”
“It would certainly be my preference to have the testing in the European Union rather then America,” he said.
“But I don’t want anyone to have the false impression that we’ve any reason to believe that these labs are anything other than what they say they are”, quality assured and accredited.
Mr Harris pointed out that “in 2008 when there was a debate about the issue, Ireland did not have capacity and women were waiting a very long time for results”.
But they had a chance, he said, this year with the introduction of HPV testing of more accurate screening, and “it will provide an opportunity to reconfigure our labs”.
He stressed that since the national screening programme began 50,000 pre-cancerous cells had been detected and rates of cervical cancer had fallen 10 per cent a year.
In the Dáil on Thursday People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith said then director general of the HSE Tony O’Brien committed over a week ago to establishing how many of the 209 women had had their smear tests analysed in US laboratories.
Ms Smith said her party colleague Richard Boyd Barrett had learned through parliamentary questions that all 10 legal cases taken to date in relation to the delay in informing women who developed cancer, what clinical audits of their screening had found, had their smear tests analysed in the US.
The Dublin South-Central TD asked what happened to the “promise that was given to us last week at the health committee by the HSE that they would give us a breakdown of the figures” on the 2089 outstanding false negative tests and what labs they came from.
She said “I believe this will show that most of the botch up was made in America and the root of this problem of the deaths of these women is the outsourcing of our health service to the US when it was strongly warned against”.
Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe who was taking questions, said the HSE should supply that information if they made the commitment and he would contact the health service “to see where that stands”.
A spokesman for the Mr Donohoe said on Friday said they were still awaiting a response from the HSE.