HSE can’t say which lab linked to errors

The HSE has been unable to clarify which of the laboratories it contracts to process cervical smears produced inaccurate test results in relation to 206 women.

It emerged yesterday that 206 cytology reviews were conducted where the cytology “suggested a different result, which would have recommended an investigation to occur at an earlier stage”.

In other words, there were cancer warning signs that were not followed up on at the time because the initial analysis incorrectly found nothing wrong.

A review subsequently identified that there was a problem in the case of 206 women.

When asked if errors in the smear test results were all linked to the same laboratory, the HSE said “there is no breakdown in relation to the laboratories”.

Earlier this week it emerged that abnormalities were not picked up in a 2011 cervical screen of Limerick woman, Vicky Phelan, who is now dying of cancer. 

The lab that supplied the results was identified as Clinical Pathology Laboratories Inc in Austin, Texas.

The HSE said last night that CervicalCheck contracts three principal laboratories to process screenings: Quest Diagnostics Inc, Teterboro, New Jersey; MedLab Pathology Ltd, Dublin; and Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital, Dublin.

Separately, the Irish Patients Association (IPA) has welcomed the Government move towards the introduction of mandatory open disclosure.

The Department of Health said it is “currently making preparations for a new Patient Safety Bill which will ensure mandatory open disclosure to patients of serious incidents”.

Stephen McMahon, Irish Patients Association. Pic: Gareth Chaney Collins
Stephen McMahon, Irish Patients Association. Pic: Gareth Chaney Collins

IPA chair Stephen McMahon said it had been disappointed when the joint committee on health, in its report on the pre-legislative scrutiny on the open disclosure’ provisions, to be included in the Civil Liability (Amendment) Bill (now an act), had essentially kicked the introduction of mandatory open disclosure down the line.

Mr McMahon said what is now unfolding — the move towards mandatory disclosure — is a “seismic shift”.

“At the time we appeared before the committee, we had patient advocates with no agenda other than the collective good of other patients. But their voice was not heard.

“The committee and the medical profession were not in favour of mandatory open disclosure and that’s how the recommendation went,” said Mr McMahon.

“You have to ask whose interests are being served when information is withheld from patients.

“It’s only ever in the face of tragedy that we start moving.

“If we are saying we have a patient-centred service, then the patient should be central to everything we do.”

Mr McMahon said he hoped the new legislation wouldn’t be too restrictive in its definition of a serious incident.

He said the IPA was reiterating its call for managers to be held accountable for the decisions they make and the actions they take, just as health professionals are held to account by their regulatory bodies.

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