The Fianna Fáil leader has warned that the national cervical screening programme is in “crisis mode” due to ongoing delays in processing the tests.
Micheál Martin told the Dáil that there is now a six month delay in processing times – which has Caused a “significant number” to expire before they can be examined.
He called on the Minister for Health Simon Harris to make a statement before the Dail on why he offered free re-checks – without putting any extra resources in place to handle them.
He warned that the backlog was impacting on the quality of the screening service as a whole.
“The additional volume of tests – as a result of the decision taken – has created unacceptable and enormous backlogs and women have been waiting up to six months for the return of their tests.
“But there is a further problem.
“It is my understanding that the delay has impacted on the quality and efficacy of the tests; rendering a significant number of them invalid.”
He said the screening programme tests 230,000 people every year – with the decision to offer free re-tests adding an additional 90,000 to 100,000.
He said Minister Harris failed to put in place any extra capacity of extra resources to deal with the extra workload.
“Quite a significant number of tests are null and void because of the delay,” he said.
“The backlog is six months Taoiseach; it is in crisis mode.”
In response, the Taoiseach confirmed that some women will have to have the test re-done and those people are being contacted at the moment.
He said he was made aware of the expired tests “a few weeks ago,” adding that patient swill be informed individually.
He said he believes some women have already been informed and pledged to ask Minister Harris to provide the information to the house.
Figures from CervicalCheck released in August showed that the number of patients presenting for smear tests jumped by over 50% between July 2017 and June 2018.
The jump saw the wait time for test results jump from an average of six-to-eight weeks to 13 weeks in some cases.
At the time, the screening service said 110 samples taken in July could no longer be read as they had expired.
Meanwhile, The Labour Party health spokesperson Alan Kelly said he has been notified that the State will fund the drug Pembro for all cervical cancer patients whose doctors decide to prescribe it.
Delighted to say that I’ve been notified that all Cervical Cancer patients whose clinicians want to prescribe the drug pembro will now be able to do so. I want to thank @PhelanVicky, Tracey Brennan, Aine Morgan and all @221plus for their support in making this happen. ðŸ‘ðŸ‘ pic.twitter.com/dVDWu0Q6Fw
— Alan Kelly TD (@alankellylabour) January 23, 2019