June 3, 2020

HSE has ‘no plan’ to resume vital cancer screening services – Waterford TD

A Waterford TD has accused the Health Service Executive of having “no plan or draft timeframe” for the resumption of cancer screening services.

Local Fianna Fáil TD Mary Butler, who is also her party’s spokesperson on older people, raised the issue with the HSE’s Chief Clinical Officer at a meeting of the Oireachtas COVID committee this week.

Deputy Butler said: “While I understand that measures to prevent the spread of Coronavirus have to be taken, involving the suspension of vital cancer screening programmes such as BreastCheck and CervicalCheck, I believe discussions should be taking place to examine a possible timeframe for the resumption of these services, now that the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 is falling, and appears to be under control.

“The restrictions which were essential at the beginning of this pandemic are now being eased and we need to start looking beyond COVID and begin examining the reintroduction of other essential services in our healthcare system.

“The figures published last week relating to cancer screening were very worrying; no mammograms were carried out in the month of April, while there was a 96% decrease in the number of samples sent to CervicalCheck labs in that time.”

Deputy Butler said that in his response to her, Dr. Colm Henry stated that it is “far too early to say” when these screening programmes will be back up and running and that screening services will be “focussing on symptomatic patients” in the short term.

The Waterford TD added: “I appreciate that these patients must be prioritised but I would have liked some assurances that the reintroduction of screening services was at least being considered.

“We know screening works; it saves hundreds of lives every year.  I would like a commitment from our public health officials that a robust catch-up programme will be put in place, with all of the necessary resources to ensure that our screening services can be back on track as soon as it is possible to do so.”

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