Tests carried out by the North Western Health Board are to be examined again because of mistakes in the laboratory processing.

In 1997 over 8000 cervical smear samples were taken from women in the Northwest to be tested at Sligo General Hospital. A fourteen week delay in processing the samples required outsourcing the testing to a private laboratory in Dublin. The issue arose when results came back in early 1998 indicating a lower than average level of positive samples.  

In January of this year the Northwestern Health Board undertook a quality audit on the tests which showed that 68 women had been given incorrect test results.

At a press conference in Sligo today Doctor Sean Denyer from the North Western Health Board explained that while there is no system in Ireland to approve laboratories for cervical screening, 

That doesn’t excuse laboratories taking responsibility for their own quality control mechanisms which the lab in Sligo General Hospital certainly has done.

The Northwestern Health Board has yet to explain however why it did not send an official or medical representative to visit the Dublin laboratory in advance of sending cervical smear tests from the North West region to it for testing in 1997. It said that legal action against the laboratory has not yet been ruled out.

Doctor Anne Kilgallen from the Northwestern Health Board Backlog stressed that while this delay is unacceptable, women who had the cervical smear test done should not necessarily be alarmed, as this issue is unlikely to affect their outcome,

The screening test, the cervical smear, is designed to detect changes long before anything more serious develops.

In recent years this cervical screening programme has been promoted, and with it has come an increased demand. In spite of this the Northwestern Health Board has not dedicated any extra funding to it.

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 14 April 1999.  The reporter is Kevin Rafter.