Words: Eva O’Beirne
All cervical cancer samples from Irish women are being sent abroad for screening, despite promises in the aftermath of the cervical cancer scandal to increase capacity at home.
Last month marked the four year anniversary of the HSE confirming that 206 women had developed cervical cancer after having a misdiagnosed CervicalCheck smear test. Out of these 206, 162 had not been told that the initial results were incorrect.
17 of the 162 women who were not told about their incorrect results had passed away by May of 2018.
We know now that at least 221 women and their families have been affected by the cervical cancer scandal.
The only Irish cervical screening lab, at the Coombe hospital in Dublin, stopped processing samples in December due to a cyberattack.
The processing of cervical screening samples has halted for six months. The HSE has not indicated when they will resume. The hiatus has led to fears among hospital staff over the future of cervical screening at the Coombe, despite the fact that a 20 million euro new national cervical screening laboratory is being built in the facility.
Quest Diagnostics was one of the screening companies associated with the scandal. On 27 April 2022, the family of Julie Quinlan Dingivan confidentially settled their court case with the company in the High Court.
Julie was six weeks pregnant with her third child when she had to have a radical hysterectomy after she was diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer in 2013. Her cancer returned over six months later and she underwent chemotherapy and radiotherapy but the disease had progressed. Julie died on April 8, 2017.
According to her family’s lawyer, in 2014 it was discovered that Julie’s 2009 smear was read incorrectly. This fact wasn’t passed on to a consultant gynaecologist until two years later. The counsel said Julie, who was in the last year of her life, was not told of the review outcome.
The settlements made in the High Court were without an admission of liability.
If you, your relative or a friend have been affected by failures in the CervicalCheck Screening Program, you can find support at the 221+ website.
Elsewhere on District: 10 things you need to know: National Maternity Hospital scandal