CervicalCheck still sends thousands of swabs to American laboratories

CervicalCheck will continue to send thousands of swab samples from women to the United States for several years after the planned opening of a new lab in Dublin later this year, it turns out, due to staffing difficulties.

he first National Cervical Screening Laboratory at Coombe Hospital was due to be completed in early summer but has been delayed.

However, an HSE spokeswoman said that “it is due to be completed by the end of this month. The lab is scheduled to be up and running by the end of this year.”

She said the new bespoke lab will consist of 1,340 square meters of accommodation over four floors and will provide facilities for cytology, HPV testing, training, auditing and research.

“The opening of the new national laboratory will strengthen the capacity and resilience of the public element of the laboratory services required for CervicalCheck, Ireland’s national cervical screening programme.

“However, the personnel capacity is the decisive limiting factor for the complete establishment of the laboratory.

“A staffing plan has been developed for the facility and a number of key positions have been successfully recruited.

“Recruitment will be an ongoing priority and will continue as the lab increases the volume of samples tested.

“It is expected to be several more years before the laboratory is able to be the main provider of laboratory services for CervicalCheck.”

That means the unpopular system of sending samples to Quest Diagnostics in the United States will have to continue to some extent for a few years.

Currently, these US labs test 310,000 women and approximately one in 10 or 40,000 samples per year at a Coombe Hospital facility.

The news comes amid ongoing controversy over comments from CervicalCheck’s clinical director, Dr. Nóirín Russell, speaking to Aontu leader Peadar Toibin in 2020, when she allegedly said some women used arbitration to “get some money,” adding that women with stage one cancer probably know that “no wrong was done to them in heart or soul”.

The CervicalCheck controversy arose in 2018 after Vicky Phelan’s High Court case revealed that an internal audit was conducted by the screening service of women diagnosed with cervical cancer and found over 200 women had been given a false all-clear . Most were never informed of the exam.

A later review of CervicalCheck by Dr. Gabriel Scally found a litany of shortcomings.

dr Russell said in response to her comments, made nearly two years ago, that they were “careless and hurtful,” and she apologized for the comments because they did not reflect her view.

Lorraine Walsh, one of the 221+ support groups for women affected by the controversy, said yesterday a cultural shift is needed from the top of the ministry.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said yesterday he does not accept people going to the CervicalCheck tribunal just to receive compensation, adding that there are legitimate issues while it is important that everyone, including doctors, understand the results of the Scally -Accept report.

dr Scally will provide an update on how the recommendations for a service overhaul in its initial report are being implemented over the coming weeks.

CervicalCheck has in recent years moved to testing samples for the HPV virus, which is more accurate than the previous system where screeners examined the sample under a microscope for cell changes. HPV virus screening is more sensitive, looking for high-risk types of the virus that cause 92 percent of cancers. This means that it helps prevent more cancers than previous primary cytologies and identifies more women at risk for cervical cancer with changes detected earlier.

https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/health/cervicalcheck-still-sending-thousands-of-smear-tests-to-american-labs-41963724.html CervicalCheck still sends thousands of swabs to American laboratories

Fry Electronics Team

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