CervicalCheck: 50 women not given smear results test positive for HPV virus

Health Minister Simon Harris is denying lives are being put at risk because of the latest Cervica...

17.25 16 Jul 2019

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CervicalCheck: 50 women not gi...

CervicalCheck: 50 women not given smear results test positive for HPV virus


17.25 16 Jul 2019

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Health Minister Simon Harris is denying lives are being put at risk because of the latest CervicalCheck controversy.

It has emerged that 50 women out of the 800 who were not given their results due to an IT issue have tested positive for the HPV virus.

The tests were carried out at the Quest lab in the US state of Virginia between October of 2018 and June this year.


The 50 women affected had repeat tests done, after their original ones were performed with an out of date test kit.

There have been calls for more clarity over when Minister Harris knew about the latest scandal.

It comes after it emerged Mr Harris's office wrote to the woman who exposed the major IT glitch at a US lab a month before he says he became aware of the issue.

The woman called 'Sharon' was contacted on June 6th requesting her details so the minister's office could check them with the Health Service Executive (HSE).

The letter does not, however, suggest that the department was aware of the IT issue at that stage.

Minister Harris has insisted he only became aware of the full nature of the IT glitch affecting 800 women's smear test results last Wednesday.

He is rejecting claims the scandal is putting their lives at risk.

"Clinical information available to me is absolutely to the contrary, and I take my advice from clinicians.

"The clinical advice available to me is that in the roughly 50 people, those doctors were notified.

"Those women who were receiving information, I'd like them to receive it in an accurate way and I'd like them to receive it from clinicians - and I'd like the information to be clinically validated and clinically relayed to them, rather than all of us endeavouring to be clinicians".

But he says the HSE should have told his department of the IT problem sooner.

"Paul Reid as the new HSE CEO has a job of work to do to work out the processes in the HSE that led to this information not being conveyed to the department - and to the patients reps.

"The patients reps play a really important role here.

"And the benefit of them knowing - and the benefit of my officials knowing - would have been when they heard that 800 people didn't get their results electronically but were due to get them manually they could then have gone back to the next meeting and said 'did that happen?'.

"They were deprived the opportunity to do that because they didn't know".

In an earlier statement, a spokesperson for Minister Harris said: "The department became aware of the existence of an IT issue through the information supplied by the HSE on 25 June in relation to this individual's results.

"The Department immediately engaged with the HSE to seek clarity about what the issue was, its possible impact, and how it was being resolved.

"This report was received on 10 July, and it advised of the nature of the issue, and that work was ongoing to resolve the IT issue and ensure all results letters issued. The Minister was informed of the issue that evening."

Timeline queries

Meanwhile, Labour's health spokesman Alan Kelly claimed there are serious questions about the timeline.

He said: "I have a deep concern about the timeline.

"Either there was a greater knowledge in the Department of Health on this issue than we've been told previously, or else there is something dysfunctional in the Department of Health."

The call for further clarity was echoed by Sinn Féin's health spokesperson Louise O'Reilly.

She said: "New correspondence shows the Minister’s office were contacted about the matter on 6 June and a reply was issued in the Minister’s name intimating he had been made aware of the matter.

“This new information raises many questions and in the interest of clarity the Minister now needs to clarify his timeline of events and confirm what he knew, and when he knew it."

Reporting by Sean Defoe, Stephen McNeice, Shane Beatty and Jack Quann
Main image: File photo of Minister for Health Simon Harris. Picture by: Niall Carson/PA Wire/PA Images

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Alan Kelly CervicalCheck HPV Virus Health Minister Hse Paul Reid Quest Lab Sharon Simon Harris

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