Tuesday, 8 October 2019
Department of Health
Cancer Screening Programmes
305. To ask the Minister for Health the reason his Department denies the existence of the email sent by a person (details supplied) on 27 March 2019 to the Office of the Taoiseach regarding speaking notes on the CervicalCheck delay in the results of tests crisis; and the reason his Department refused to release it to a journalist under the Freedom of Information Act 2014. [41052/19]
Given that there may be some misunderstanding regarding this issue, I want to clarify to the Deputy that the email in question does not concern the CervicalCheck IT issue which emerged in July this year and which related to tests undertaken at the Quest Diagnostics laboratory in Chantilly.
The email referred to by the Deputy relates to an earlier issue. In November 2018, the HSE became aware of an issue with Quest laboratories in relation to the usage, outside the manufacturers recommended timeframe, of a number of tests used for secondary HPV testing. Approximately 4,500 women required a retest.
There was an initial delay in the establishment of the required IT systems to allow for the results of these 4,500 repeat smear tests to be reported and that is the issue referred to in the email referenced by the Deputy. That issue was the subject of media coverage and was also referred to in weekly reports which are published online. The HSE advised my Department on 2 April that the issue was resolved.
I would like to clarify that the release of the email was not refused. However, it is acknowledged that this email should have been released in response to a request received by my Department under the FOI Act, which was one of over 470 FOI requests received by my Department this year, of which approximately 30 relate to CervicalCheck. Due to an administrative error, the particular email was not found in the search for documents which was undertaken in response to the FOI request in question. I can confirm my Department has now liaised with the requester, has apologised for the omission and has provided him with this additional document.