Fianna Fáil TD for Mayo Lisa Chambers has criticised a delay in recruiting additional staff to deal with the backlog of smear tests in the system.
It is taking 20 weeks for smear test results to be reported, and in some cases tests could not be read because of the delays in processing them. Despite a surge in demand for smears in the aftermath of the CervicalCheck controversy, the HSE is only now undertaking additional recruitment.
Deputy Chambers said, “I find it astonishing that it has taken more than five months since the extensive delays in the CervicalCheck programme were being reported for the HSE to only now taking steps to address it.
“I highlighted this issue last year when waiting lists for smear results hit the 20 week mark. Since then, we’ve seen hundreds of cases whereby the smears themselves have gone out of date because there is such a timelag between the smears being taken and them being examined in the lab. That’s hundreds more women who will be further inconvenienced, and who may be at risk of a delayed diagnosis because the programme was under resourced.
“In its latest reply to me the National Screening Service states that “following an engagement process with the HSE, the laboratories have agreed to undertake additional recruitment”. While this is welcome, it begs the question, why did it take so long for these additional resources to be approved?
“While I believe Minister Harris was right to offer repeat smear tests to women who had genuine concerns following the CervicalCheck controversy, he should also have ensured that the necessary resources were made available to cater for the demand. Women have been facing months of delays – in the first instance to get an appointment for smear and then expect to wait another 20 weeks to get the results. This is not how the service should function.
“I am calling on the Minister to expedite this recruitment process so that waiting times for this life-saving screening process can be brought back in line with the original 6-8 week timeframe”.