Wednesday, 25 February 2004

Questions (115, 116)

Liz McManus

Question:

202 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children the longest waiting time for women to receive results of their cervical cancer smear tests in each health board area; his views on evidence of delays of up to four months being experienced by women; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6283/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

Having made inquiries of the Eastern Regional Health Authority and those health boards in which there are laboratories undertaking the analysis of cervical smears, I am advised that the position with regard to turnaround times is as follows:

Board

Routine

Urgent

ERHA

4-16 weeks

1-3 weeks

NEHB

8-9 weeks

Under 1 week

NWHB

16 weeks

4 weeks

SHB

3 weeks — 29 days

2 days — 1 week

WHB

5 weeks

Under 3 weeks

I should point out that phase one of the national cervical screening programme has been up and running in the Mid Western Health Board since October 2000. Under the programme, cervical screening is being offered at five year intervals to approximately 74,000 women in the 25-60 age group, free of charge.

The national health strategy includes a commitment to extend the programme to the rest of the country. The Health Boards Executive, HeBE, has initiated an examination of the feasibility and implications of a roll-out of the national programme which is a major undertaking with significant logistical and resource implications. The work currently being undertaken as part of the roll-out includes an evaluation of phase one, policy development and the establishment of national governance arrangements. This work has regard to both the experiences gained from the phase one programme and other international programmes as well as current best practice.

The evaluation of phase one is a key element in informing the development of a high quality cervical screening model for Ireland. The evaluation is currently under way and it is anticipated that it will be completed within the next few months. Once completed, HeBE has advised that it will be in a position to prepare a draft roll out plan.

On the issue of resourcing of cervical cytology laboratories, it is the case that over the last number of years my Department has allocated additional funding to support the ongoing development and enhancement of cervical cytology services including the achievement of a reduction in waiting times for smear test results. The funding has facilitated the employment of staff, provision of training, introduction of new technologies such as liquid-based cytology, investment in new equipment and upgrading of facilities. Further additional funding amounting to €0.500 million was allocated in 2004 as part of a programme of continued investment in cervical cytology and coloscopy services.

Richard Bruton

Question:

203 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Eastern Regional Health Authority has brought forward specific proposals for developments in the context of his proposals to develop new facilities and centres of excellence for the care of Alzheimer’s patients; and if the Eastern Regional Health Authority has assessed the opportunity to develop such facilities at a location (details supplied) in Dublin 3. [6313/04]

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As the Deputy will be aware, the provision of health services in the Dublin 3 area is, in the first instance, the responsibility of the Northern Area Health Board acting under the aegis of the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive of the authority to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply direct to him as a matter of urgency.

The Deputy might be interested to note that I have met with both the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the Northern Area Health Board concerning the future use of this facility for the delivery of health related services. I acknowledge the need for specialised care for dementia and Alzheimer patients in this area of North Dublin. I have also met with the Alzheimer Society and the Sybil Hill day centre to explore the use of Verville nursing home as a centre of excellence for Alzheimer and dementia services in North Dublin. I also visited Verville nursing home with an Alzheimer Society representative and representatives of Sybil Hill day centre. I can assure the Deputy that I will continue to work closely with the authority, the area board and agencies to ensure the most appropriate use of this facility by the health services.