US outsourcing deal for cervical smear tests signed

THE National Cancer Screening Service (NCSS) confirmed that it has signed an initial two-year contract with Quest Diagnostics in the US to provide laboratory testing services for the national cervical screening programme.

The Health Service Authority (HSE) told the Oireachtas Health Committee that half of the capacity of the State’s cytology laboratories would not be required because of the outsourcing of smear tests to Quest.

Acting director of the HSE’s national hospitals office, Tom Finn, said there were 70 people working in the area and discussions would have to take place with the union around re-deploying some of the employees.

Mr Finn said hospital cytology services would be retained and he believed there would be a lot of options for the staff affected.

The NCSS said Quest was selected following a rigorous procurement process, under EU guidelines and was open to local and international laboratories. “The NCSS is confident that Quest Diagnostics will provide a service which offers consistency on quality, consistency on the turnaround of results and consistency on capacity,” it stated.

It was revealed last month Quest billed US authorities for unnecessary tests and had to pay $40 million (€26m) in fraud settlements.

Quest insisted the case is not related to the quality of its work and the matter had been resolved.

The NCSS said it would launch Ireland’s first cervical screening programme in the coming months.

Free screening will be provided every three years for women aged between 25 and 44 and every five years for women aged between 45 and 60 years.


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