By Elaine Loughlin and Jess Casey
More than 50 women caught up in the latest CervicalCheck controversy have tested positive for the HPV virus.
Health Minister Simon Harris has now moved to reassure the women impacted by the latest scandal that the risk to their health is “very low”.
Of the 800 women whose test results were kept from them as a result of an IT glitch in the Quest Diagnostics US lab, 52 have now come back as positive.
Defending his handling of the latest controversy, Mr Harris said he had met with the HSE’s chief clinical officer and he was assured that there is a “very low clinical risk”.
“I think it’s very important that we provide reassurance to women in relation to an issue that clinicians are describing to me as having a very low clinical risk,” said Mr Harris.
“This is cause of great frustration, great annoying and great stress to women, of that there is no doubt, this should not have happened, this IT glitch should not have happened.”
Mr Harris added that he would have preferred to have been informed of the issue earlier and regretted that the patient representatives who sit on the CervicalCheck steering committee were not informed sooner.
“What’s really important now is that all of the women get their results, get to have a conversation with their GP,” he said.
However, patient advocates Lorraine Walsh and Stephen Teap, who were only told of the latest scandal less than an hour before it broke in the media, believe trust has been broken again.
They will be questioning the HSE and CervicalCheck when the steering committee meet tomorrow.
“I won’t lie, for both Lorraine and I, this really knocked the wind out of us last week,” Mr Teap said.
“We found it extremely disrespectful. We put so much time and effort into building up relationships with the HSE on the various steering committees to basically try and correct what went wrong in the past and work on restoring trust.
“The biggest issue that Lorraine and I have is really around the timelines of everything," he told The Ray D'Arcy Show.
Mr Teap said neither he nor Ms Walsh were advised of the latest controversy at the last steering committee on June 26.
“Everyone talks about how do we change the culture and the best way I see us doing that is by diluting the system with patient representatives and medical professionals working together but we don’t seem to have progressed too far down the road,” said Mr Teap.
Brian MacCraith has been tasked with conducting a rapid review of the IT glitch and finding out who knew what and when. This will be completed by August 2.
Last night, the HSE said it learned of the failure to pass on test results last week.
The tests were on samples which were retested because their original mRNA HPV test was carried out outside the manufacturer’s recommended timeframe.
These women had previously been found to have had low-grade cytological changes from their smear test. Since 2015, it has been the practice of CervicalCheck to test women with low grade abnormalities for the HPV virus.
The HSE added that there were “a small number of women” whose HPV status changed as a result of the retest using the more sensitive test and the GPs of all of these 52 women, whose status had changed, received their test results in February of this year.
“CervicalCheck records show that over half of these women have been referred on for further investigation, and we are currently confirming directly with GPs that all the women’s results have been discussed in full with her in each case,” the HSE said