Women in rural Ireland waiting longer for results of smear tests, Dáil hears

Women in rural Ireland waiting longer for results of smear tests, Dáil hears

The Government and Health Minister Simon Harris came under severe attack in the Dáil over fresh delays in cervical tests for women who had to be retested.

Opposition TDs sought answers from Tánaiste Simon Coveney over the delays involving a third party contractor, Medlab, with Mr Harris blamed for being the direct cause of the backlogs.

Fianna Fáil's Lisa Chambers said the situation has gone beyond serious.

“The Minister for Health single-handedly caused this backlog and he has failed to get to grips with it,” said Ms Chambers.

MedLab treats patients and deals with women in rural Ireland, so women in all of those constituencies in rural Ireland wait much longer than other women.

"The wait to get a smear result has increased from five or six weeks to eight months.

"Women are being told their tests have expired and must come back in for another repeat smear, having sought the repeat test in the first place because they were worried,” she added.

“It was meant to be a reassurance smear test. What is the Government doing to fix it? Where is the extra capacity? Where are the extra resources? When will the backlog be cleared?” she asked Mr Coveney.

Solidarity TD Joan Collins called for answers since it emerged that many of the women facing delays are now being forced to seek private medical care in order to get a timely response.

Joan Collins
Joan Collins

“I want clarification on what is happening. Why is this happening? How can a private smear test be prioritised over the 78,000 women?,” she said.

In response, Mr Coveney said the HSE has sourced additional capacity and has been working on it for a number of weeks in a number of countries and is trying to finalise arrangements so this capacity can be incorporated into the CervicalCheck programme.

“This is a capacity issue. We cannot develop increased capacity here in Ireland in the short term so we need to source it in other parts of the world,” he said.

"This is what the HSE is endeavouring to do at the moment and, for the first time, I have a note that suggests it has secured capacity and is trying to finalise contractual arrangements in this regard.”

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