By mr ben rory
Up to 1,000 women in the Republic of Ireland are to be informed their cervical smear tests will have to be repeated.
Due to a backlog in the system their original tests have expired.
A spokesperson for Minister for Health Simon Harris said 0.29% of tests expired from April to October 2018.
However, this was not significantly higher than the previous year, the spokesperson said.
About 220,000 women get a smear test each year in the Republic of Ireland, but 108,000 extra availed of the service last year.
The rise came after the minister announced in April that a free test would be made available to any woman who wanted one following the CervicalCheck controversy,
Failures in Ireland’s cervical cancer screening programme meant that at least 208 women diagnosed with the cancer should have received earlier intervention.
Some of them have since died.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin told the Dáil (Irish parliament) that the decision to offer tests to all women had resulted in an “enormous” demand on the CervicalCheck screening program.
Mr Martin said that had now left the entire programme in “jeopardy”.
“The additional volume of tests as a result of the decision taken has created enormous and unacceptable backlogs and women have been waiting up to six months for the return of their tests,” he said.
“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.”
Mr Harris said the decision to offer free smears to all women was taken collectively by government and followed demand from GPs, as well as thousands of women, who had contacted a helpline set up in light of the CervicalCheck controversy.
More than 220 women and their families have been affected by the CervicalCheck crisis.
They received incorrect smear test results, which were discovered during a clinical audit of the screening programme.
Some of the women have since died, including Orla Church and Emma Mhic Mhathúna.