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'Not good enough': Tánaiste apologises to women for 18-week delay for their smear test results

Due to the upsurge in the number of women presenting for their smear test, there is now a backlog of 60,000.

Image: Shutterstock/Komsan Loonprom

TÁNAISTE SIMON COVENEY has apologised to women who have had to wait up to 18 weeks for their smear test results. 

Following the fallout of the CervicalCheck scandal, the government announced in May that it would fund re-tests for anyone who had concerns about previous smear tests.

Since the announcement, the number of women presenting to their doctor for repeat smear tests has jumped massively, placing the service under pressure. 

Speaking during Leaders’ Questions today, Coveney confirmed that processing time has more than trebled and that some women are waiting 18 weeks to receive their results, and in some cases, even longer, he admitted. 

The normal turnaround is generally four to six weeks. 

Coveney said there has been an upsurge in women attending for their normal smear test and also out of cycle tests.

He apologised to women for the delays and confirmed that between May and September of this year 42,469 repeat, or out of cycle, smear tests were undertaken.

As of 13 October, 86,210 smear test samples were still in progress and not yet reported on, compared to around 23,000 smear test samples which would normally be in train at any one time. 

“It is not good enough,” he said., adding that getting it sorted is a “top priority” for the health minister. 

Sinn Féin’s Louise O’Reilly said anyone with foresight would have known that there would be added pressure on the system when the rollout of additional smear tests was promised to women. 

She questioned why additional resources were not given to support such promise, adding that it appears no clear strategy was put in place to deal with the additional numbers presenting to the service.

O’Reilly said she is very concerned that some smear tests may be at risk of expiring, as the time period in which they can be tested by a lab has passed. The mismanagement will result in the delays just being repeated over and over, she told the Dáil. 

“If you don’t tackle lack of resources due to the backlog this will continue,” she told Coveney. She added that the whole reason for providing additional smear tests to women was to reassure them – however, she added that is far from what it has achieved

He said “everything possible is being done to resolve the issue”. Coveney made a commitment that women presenting for their smear test will be given a “clear picture” about the estimate time they will have to wait to get their results back.

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