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Answers needed why concerns over outsourcing of smear testing ignored – O’Reilly

30 April, 2018 - by Louise O'Reilly TD

Speaking this morning, Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD has said that answers are needed as to why concerns raised in 2008 by Dr David Gibbons, the chair of the Cytology/Histology Group within the Quality Assurance Committee of the National Cervical Screening Programme, were ignored.

Teachta O’Reilly said:

“Every passing day brings more concerning revelations and raises further serious questions about the cervical cancer screening scandal.

“The news that, 10 years ago, Dr David Gibbons, a then member of the National Cervical Screening Programme, raised clinical concerns about outsourcing Irish smear tests to the United States raises serious concerns for the HSE and the Health Ministers who have signed off on the outsourcing since 2008.

“These were extremely serious clinical concerns which Dr Gibbons raised, centring around the results of the tests and mismatching systems, with the then CEO of the National Cancer Screening Service and outgoing head of the HSE, Tony O'Brien.

“It goes without saying that Mr O’Brien has serious questions to answer and, though he is outgoing as head of the HSE, he needs to ensure that he makes himself available for any enquiry or investigation which will follow from this scandal.

“There were more than Dr Gibbons warning about the dangers associated with the outsourcing of smear testing. In the same year, the Dublin Well Woman Centre raised similar concerns and warned that women’s health was being put at risk as medics here were left to interpret analysis from American labs with little guidance.

“Indeed, my colleague and then Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD criticised the 2008 decision to outsource the screening service during a Dáil debate saying: ‘…the Minister for Health and Children would rather listen to corporate executives in the private health business and her HSE has awarded the contract for cervical cancer tests to Quest Diagnostics, a US company that has an unacceptably high rate of errors...’.

“The Minister for Health and the HSE need to come clean about their response over the past 10 years regarding concerns over the outsourcing of these tests, if any internal concerns were raised about the efficacy of the tests, and if any audits were carried out as regards the companies concerned.” 

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