Simon Harris says Ireland needs better capacity for smear testing labs

The health minister says he will be led by the Scally Inquiry

Simon Harris says Ireland needs better capacity for smear testing labs

Health Minister Simon Harris talking to the media on his way into Cabinet | Image: Sam Boal/

The Health Minister Simon Harris has said Ireland needs to have better capacity for smear testing labs.

He said outsourcing and quality assurance will form part of the Scally Inquiry into the Cervical Check scandal.

He was speaking after a range of measures were announced to help the women affected.

They include free medical cards for all women affected or their next of kin, counselling services and covering the cost of any medicines prescribed by their doctor.

When asked what budget has been put aside for the supports, Minister Harris said whatever resources are needed will be provided.

The Health Minister said he is determined to get to the bottom of 'who knew what and when' about the Cervical Check scandal.

Speaking at the launch of the National Doctors Together For Yes summit in Dublin, Minister Harris said long smear test waiting lists are not acceptable.

"I do think it's right and proper that we now listen to the concerns of women in relation to this.

"I instinctively would like to be able to use labs in our own country, but we have to make sure we have the capacity.

"We don't want to have a situation where we decide to use labs in our own country and then have very long waiting times for smear tests - cause we know that would have an adverse impact on women's health.

"So I'll be led by the Scally Inquiry's findings - and remember this is an inquiry that'll report next month, it's not something that will go on and on".

HSE priorities

It comes as John Connaghan has been appointed as interim director-general of the HSE following Tony O'Brien's decision to step down.

Minister Harris said he spoke with Mr Connaghan on Friday.

"I've asked him to do three things: I've asked him to make sure that the HSE and all of its employees cooperate in full with the Scally Inquiry - I don't want any obstacle to the truth coming out - I think that's absolutely essential - people rightly want accountability - who knew what, where and when.

"Secondly, I've asked him to make sure that Cervical Check continues to receive all of the resources it needs to return the phone calls to women... I want to see those calls returned as quickly as possible with information for women.

"And thirdly, I've asked him to follow my direction I issued yesterday after the Cabinet meeting to put in place a package of practical supports for women and their families who have been impacted by this.

"Things like meeting the costs of drugs, medical cards, medical costs, transport costs to and from the hospital, childcare costs.

"The little things that we can do as a State that will make a meaningful difference in trying to ease somewhat, in some small way, the burden that women and their families are facing."

Minister Harris will meet with Mr Connaghan on Monday.