National cervical cancer screening laboratory needed now says Smith

12 May 2022

Labour health spokesperson Duncan Smith has today (Thursday 12th May) criticised the government over the lack of progress made to develop a national cervical screening laboratory in Ireland.

Despite promises made by the government following the CervicalCheck scandal that a laboratory would be fully operational in Ireland by September of this year, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar was non-committal over how its progressing.

Deputy Smith said:

“Despite the recommendations of the Scally Report, the Minister is still unable to provide clarity on a national cervical screening laboratory. This is not good enough. As we continue to discuss and debate women’s health in the context of the proposed National Maternity Hospital, it is unbelievable that women’s healthcare is continued to be treated as an afterthought by this government.

“We can never experience the same failings in women’s healthcare that we did when Vicky Phelan exposed the flawed process around CervicalCheck in Ireland. Following the Scally report, Ireland was promised that a National Cervical Screening Lab would be set up by June of this year and would be fully operational by September. Government must outline the plans to deliver this lab immediately.

“The HSE’s own projections to the end of 2021 published in the HSE Services Plan for 2022 show that only 6 in 10 patients referred to the diagnostic clinics are being seen in recommended time frames compared with the target of 95%. I am calling on the Minister to fully fund a deliverable plan to tackle delayed diagnosis of cancer services and address the Covid backlog. It would be a shame on this country if anyone received a delayed diagnosis due to improper planning by this government.

“As we seek to open a national cervical screening laboratory, I am acutely aware of the shortage of expert lab workers due to poor pay and conditions and the history of outsourcing testing in Ireland. There are more vacancies in laboratories than there are graduates to fill them and this has been the case for some time. It doesn’t take a lot to realise that there will be a breaking point.

“We need to address pay parity as a matter of urgency to hold onto our recent graduates. We need to see real career progression and opportunities to retain our bright and hardworking scientists. These scientists are fundamental to every area of healthcare from diagnosis of infection, cross-matching blood transfusions and cancer diagnosis.”

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