Sligo Hospital involved in cervical cancer controversy

Fiona Heavey

Reporter:

Fiona Heavey

Sligo Hospital involved in cervical cancer controversy

Sligo University Hospital

Sligo University Hospital is one of the 13 hospitals given information relating to 208 women who should have received earlier intervention following cervical cancer tests.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) confirmed yesterday, Monday April 30 that 162 women, including 17 who have died, were not informed of a delay in their cervical cancer diagnosis.

A review conducted by the HSE confirmed 208 women should have received earlier intervention than they did but only 46 individuals were made aware of this. The examination, conducted by national director of quality assurance at the HSE Patrick Lynch, confirmed 17 of these women have died. The cause of their deaths is not known.

Mr Lynch said he could not state if these women were informed of the delayed diagnosis before they died but insisted their next of kin would be contacted by Tuesday (May 1) at the very latest. All of the other women affected would also be informed by today and given an appointment with a clinician free of charge.

HSE director-general Tony O’Brien has apologised to all of the women involved and to their families for the “completely unacceptable” practices. Mr O’Brien said he did not have sufficient information at present to state who had been at fault. 

Former Clinical Director of CervicalCheck, Dr Gráinne Flannelly stood down from her position on Saturday night.
She told the HSE of her intention to resign saying she was sorry that recent events caused distress and worry to women.

The controversy came to light through the case of Vicky Phelan, a terminally ill mother of two, who last week settled a High Court action against the US-based laboratory subcontracted by CervicalCheck to assess the smear tests. Ms Phelan had a smear test in 2011 which showed no abnormalities. In 2014, an audit found this was incorrect but she was not informed of the outcome of that review until late 2017.

The legal case led to confirmation from the HSE that the CervicalCheck programme had been notified of 1,482 cases of women who had developed cervical cancer since 2008. In the majority of these cases there had been no requirement for further review. However, the cases of 442 women were reviewed and for 208 women earlier intervention was suggested.

This information was given to 13 hospitals caring for the 208 women. These include Sligo University Hospital, Letterkenny General Hospital, University Hospital Galway,  Mayo University Hospital in Castlebar, the Coombe Hospital in Dublin, Cork University Hospital, Louth County Hospital in Dundalk, the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin,  University Hospital Limerick, the Rotunda in Dublin, Tallaght Hospital in Dublin, University Hospital Waterford and Wexford General Hospital.

However, the outcome of the review in their cases was communicated to only 46 individuals, meaning 162 were kept in the dark until now.

The issue has raised significant concern regarding the screening tests for cervical cancer.

A helpline set up for people who have concerns has received 6,000 calls. You can call the HSE helpline on 1800 45 45 55