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Cervical cancer tests should not be exported – Ó Snodaigh

29 May, 2008

Speaking in the Dáil today Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh said it is a disgrace that successive Governments failed to roll out a national cancer testing programme. Deputy Ó Snodaigh raised concerns about the company named as the preferred bidder to analyse smear tests for Irish women and about the implications for Irish technicians and laboratories of the export of this huge contract which he said should remain in Ireland.

He said, "Comprehensive screening leading to early detection and treatment can and will dramatically reduce the incidence and development of cervical cancer and the resulting all too terrible death toll. There is still far too little information out there to show to women that screening can be life-saving. The information and the screening need to be as widely available as possible and there must be quick progress in moving the screening programme beyond the current Phase One in the Mid-Western HSE area.

"The promise is that the National Cervical Screening Programme will be free to all women between 25 and 60 years of age. 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 of age in line with best international practice. That is the commitment now given by Government to the women of this country and that commitment must be kept.

"Major concerns have been raised about the use of laboratories outside this country for these tests. And major concerns have been raised about the company named as the preferred bidder - Quest Diagnostics.

"Quest has won the tender to analyse 300,000 Irish smear tests a year but consultant pathologists from the Coombe Women's Hospital, St James's Hospital and St Luke's hospital in Dublin and University College Hospital, Galway have stated that missed cases would arise because the diagnostic rate of pre-cancerous cells at Quest Diagnostics in the US is 30 per cent less than that of Irish laboratories. Quest has also been guilty of major fraud in the USA.

"This concern has been echoed by the Irish Association for Clinical Cytology (IACC). They have expressed their disquiet at the decision to award the contract for cervical screening services to Quest, thereby excluding all Irish laboratories. They say this decision will have serious implications for the long term quality of the Cervical Screening Programme. It seems that the Minister for Health & Children would rather listen to corporate executives in the private health business than to health experts and patients in Ireland. Not only are our health services being privatised but jobs and services are being exported. Trained and trainee lab technicians in Ireland are being written off and many may have to emigrate to find work." ENDS

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