From top: All 15 doctors overseeing CervicalCheck’s colposcopy services are considering resigning; University Hospital Waterford, where two out of three nurse colposcopists have resigned; Dr Nóirín Russell
On RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.
Dr Nóirín Russell, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at Cork University Maternity Hospital and lead colposcopist with Kerry Colposcopy Service with University Hospital Kerry, spoke to Bryan Dobson.
It follows an article in today’s Irish Examiner by Catherine Shanahan and Elaine Loughlin in which they report that all 15 doctors overseeing the CervicalCheck’s colposcopy services are considering resigning.
The services they oversee are for women requiring further investigation following a smear test.
They reported that, at University Hospital Waterford, two out of three nurse colposcopists have resigned.
Dr Nóirín Russell told Mr Dobson what it has been like in the clinics since the CervicalCheck scandal broke in April of last year. She said:
“The last 18 months have been, first of all, incredibly difficult for women. Women have been absolutely terrified by the reporting, by the news, by the discussions about CervicalCheck.
“There was a lot of anger, especially at the start because women believed that they may have cervical cancer and that their doctors didn’t tell them.
“There was a lot of anger when the waiting lists became a problem. When all the extra smears, all the out of programme smears, were performed, that led to long delays, waiting for results and women were ringing, almost daily, for results.
“And that anger often led to quite, I mean I think ‘abuse’ is probably a strong word but there was a lot of abusive language used against staff admin and especially administration staff and nursing staff in clinics around the country.
“Before April 2018, it’s important to note that 98% of women were seen within eight weeks when they were referred to colposcopy. We didn’t have a waiting list, it worked really well.
“Because of the huge increase in referrals, we now have long waiting lists for referrals and that, it’s really important not to underestimate how stressful it is for women waiting for an appointment we are unable to tell them when it will be because of these lists.
“I’ll just give you an example – in my own service in Kerry, we saw 57% more women in 2018 than in 2017 but this was without extra resources….so you’ve got a perfect storm, you’ve got really anxious, worried women, ringing regularly and staff who are really, really under pressure.”
“…We don’t want to leave the service, we believe in cervical screening, it works, it leads to a reduction in cervical cancer, that’s what we care about.
“We really want to see this programme flourish, we want to see it supported because we know that screening and HPV vaccination are the best ways that we have to achieve our goal of eradicating cervical cancer in Ireland.
“But that support, we need that support as medical professionals, we also need the support of the media, the politicians, the Department of Health, the HSE, and very importantly, we need the women, the 1.2million, who are eligible for cervical screening to support the programme, to attend when they receive that information letter about cervical screening.
“Currently only 80% attend. We need all of the women to attend and they will only attend if they trust the service and have confidence in it. And that’s what our goal is.
“We don’t want to abandon the service but there have been many discussions during the year, amongst colposcopists, nurse colposcopists and medical colposcopists, querying, where is the future for cervical screening.
“We hope it’s bright, we hope that support is there but we don’t, we need that to be the message from today.”
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