It is a national shame that we are witness to the testimony of the women affected by the Irish cervical cancer screening scandal.
Flawed decisions at the top of the HSE are at the root of the problem.
Compounding their poor choices regarding the outsourcing of cervical screening services to the US, the behaviour in not informing the women about their false negative smear test results (uncovered after an audit) was unconscionable.
And now the problem has turned toxic, as it cannot be extracted from the commercial interests of the insurance companies involved.
Everyone runs for cover.
No medical test or screening is perfect. Human beings (cytology technicians) look through a microscope to decide if the cervical cells are normal or abnormal.
They won’t get it right every time.
There will always be some false negatives, when a technician’s result mistakenly shows that a sick person is healthy and doesn’t require treatment, and some false positives, when a result mistakenly indicates that a healthy person is sick and requires treatment.
We now know that human papillomavirus (HPV) infection (which can be carried by both males and females) is a cause of nearly all cervical cancers.
There must be a concerted effort for a high uptake of vaccination of both boys and girls in Ireland to prevent
future cervical cancers in women and a significant number of cancers in men including those of the penis, anus, mouth, and throat.
Now is the time for us to take responsibility.
The Government must plan to build the laboratories, invest in the expertise, training, and equipment, and provide a reputable national screening service. No outsourcing.