Health

Tánaiste says HSE had known about repeat smear test

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The HSE first became aware of thousands of women who will now need repeat smear checks as far back as November, the Tánaiste has told the Dáil.

While Health Minister Simon Harris was informed in December of the issue, the 6,000 women who now need to be re-screened have not yet been made aware that they need another smear test.

Under questioning in the Dáil, Simon Coveney confirmed that those caught up in the latest CervicalCheck scandal will be written to next week.

Fianna Fáil deputy leader Dara Calleary accused the Government of creating a gap between promises and delivery is one that “thousands of women are falling into”.

Mr Coveney said he wanted to reassure women that they can still have confidence in the screening programme.

He told the Dáil that the latest issue which impacts 6,000 women relates to the failure of the lab to look at samples before they expired.

“This is not a resource issue when I say it’s a capacity issue, it’s a capacity in the labs.”

He said GPs have coped “extremely well” with the extra demand from an increase in women coming forward for smear tests after the initial CervicalCheck scandal emerged last summer.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin said delays in cervical cancer screening has led some women to get privately tested but he said this is not an option to everyone adding that this is “another example of a two-tier system”.

He asked Mr Coveney if the Government would now refund women who decide to get smear checks done in private clinics, however, the Tánaiste did not respond to this.

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