Cer­vi­calCheck in­quiry team re­turn­ing to US

New sup­port group for 221 women af­fected by scan­dal to be launched to­day

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - Today In Your - Maeve Shee­han

THE team in­ves­ti­gat­ing the Cer­vi­calCheck cri­sis will travel to Amer­ica within weeks to ex­am­ine the out­sourc­ing of Ir­ish smear tests by a Texas lab­o­ra­tory to labs in Honolulu, Florida and Las Ve­gas.

Dr Gabriel Scally’s damn­ing re­port on the screen­ing con­tro­versy re­vealed how smear tests con­tracted to be read by Clin­i­cal Pathol­ogy Lab­o­ra­to­ries (CPL) in Austin, Texas, ended up be­ing dis­patched to other smaller lab­o­ra­to­ries.

Scally’s team is to re­turn to CPL to find out the “ex­act num­ber of sam­ples that were sub­con­tracted to lab­o­ra­to­ries and the lo­ca­tions of those lab­o­ra­to­ries”.

A cy­topathol­o­gist as­sist­ing Dr Scally told the Oireach­tas health com­mit­tee last week that many of the labs to which the tests were sub­con­tracted “no longer ex­ist and many were very small”.

Dr Karen Denton also said that the same smear tests could been sent for anal­y­sis to two dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions. “We have fur­ther in­quiries to make re­gard­ing the gov­er­nance and ac­cred­i­ta­tion of all of these ser­vices,” she said.

Cer­vi­calCheck didn’t know about the out­sourc­ing, and Dr Scally said the news came as a “com­plete shock” to the HSE.

The HSE stopped us­ing CPL in 2012, and Dr Scally ex­pressed his con­fi­dence in the lab­o­ra­to­ries cur­rently con­tracted by the ser­vice.

A surge in le­gal ac­tions since the Cer­vi­calCheck cri­sis emerged in April has had a huge im­pact on ne­go­ti­a­tions with two of the three lab­o­ra­to­ries con­tracted by the HSE to an­a­lyse smear tests.

The HSE has been in pro­tracted talks with Quest, in the US, and Med Lab, in Dublin, to re­new the con­tracts, which are due to ex­pire this week­end.

The talks fal­tered over who should take li­a­bil­ity for the false neg­a­tive re­sults in the screen­ing process.

Re­ports that the State had se­cured pro­vi­sional ar­range­ments with the lab­o­ra­to­ries this week­end went un­con­firmed by the HSE.

Ac­cord­ing to re­ports yes­ter­day, the State is propos­ing to take into the pub­lic sec­tor screen­ing staff that are cur­rently work­ing for one of the con­tracted lab­o­ra­to­ries, Med Lab in Dublin, while ne­go­ti­at­ing new terms and fees with Quest Di­ag­nos­tics in the US.

Mean­while, an in­de­pen­dent sup­port group for women af­fected by the Cer­vi­calCheck cri­sis is due to be launched in Dublin to­day.

The group has been named 221 af­ter the num­ber of women with cer­vi­cal can­cer who were im­pacted by the cri­sis. Twenty of the women have since died.

It was set up by sev­eral of the fam­i­lies af­fected, but prin­ci­pally Vicky Phe­lan, who ex­posed the Cer­vi­calCheck cri­sis ear­lier this year, Lor­raine Walsh, who also re­ceived in­cor­rect smear tests re­sults, and Stephen Teap, whose wife Irene died last year.

The Ir­ish Can­cer So­ci­ety, the Ir­ish Pa­tient’s As­so­ci­a­tion and the Marie Keat­ing Foun­da­tion also as­sisted in the set-up.

The group aim to ad­dress the prac­ti­cal needs of women with cer­vi­cal can­cer and the fam­i­lies of women who have died of the disease. Around 140 of the af­fected women at­tended an in­for­ma­tion day last month, or­gan­ised by the sup­port group. Work­shops were held on be­reave­ment, psy­cho­sex­ual is­sues, fer­til­ity and deal­ing with symp­toms post-treat­ment.

A steer­ing group over­see­ing the im­ple­men­ta­tion of Dr Scally’s rec­om­men­da­tions also agreed last month that an ex­pert group should be set up to look at the best way of help­ing and sup­port­ing women who are seek­ing fer­til­ity treat­ment.

Dr Scally told last week’s health meet­ing that screen­ing pro­grammes should com­pen­sate peo­ple for er­rors that have se­ri­ous con­se­quences in a non-ad­ver­sar­ial way.

The next phase of his work is fo­cus­ing on the de­ci­sion to out­source the read­ing of smear tests, the orig­i­nal ten­der­ing process and the ac­cred­i­ta­tions of the lab­o­ra­to­ries.

He said he was not con­tent with the sys­tem of ac­cred­i­ta­tion of lab­o­ra­to­ries or the orig­i­nal ten­der­ing process. He said he was con­cerned with lab­o­ra­to­ries that “might have wanted to take part in the ten­der­ing process but which did not”.

CAM­PAIGNER: Vicky Phe­lan

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