Tuesday, 27 January 2004

Questions (574)

Seán Ardagh

Question:

684 Mr. Ardagh asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will examine why results of smear tests for women take over four months to process; and his proposals to expedite the matter, particularly because this is unacceptable for young women in a high risk category. [1439/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

Waiting times associated with the cervical cytology service in the eastern region is a matter for the Eastern Regional Health Authority. The details of the individual were supplied by the Deputy. They have been sent to the regional chief executive of the ERHA with a request that the matter be investigated and that he issue a response directly to her. The authority has stated that if a test is notified as clinically urgent, results will usually be returned within one to three weeks. Waiting times can vary between four and 16 weeks for routine screening.

Over recent years I have provided additional funding to support the ongoing development of cervical cytology laboratory and coloscopy services within the ERHA. This was done with a view to achieving improved services, in particular, waiting times for cervical smear test results. In 2004 additional funding of €0.440 million was allocated to the ERHA as part of a programme of continued investment in the area.

The authority's objective is to reduce the turnaround time for processing routine smears. The initiatives taken include overtime, faster screening technology in the region and the outsourcing of cervical cytology to external laboratories.

The authority allocated additional funding to its screening agencies to introduce liquid based technology. This involved investment in new equipment and at present all staff, from smear takers to laboratory staff, are being trained to use it. Liquid based cytology smears are easier and quicker to screen but the cost of consumables is more expensive than the traditional PAP method. It is expected that the additional expense will be balanced by a quicker screening time and a reduction in processing time.

Question No. 685 answered with QuestionNo. 683.