Ireland's health service


There’s a lot of false reporting on the cervical cancer scandal. The real scandal here is that widespread testing for cervical cancer didn’t start until 2008 in Ireland, for a test that was around since the 1940s.

The reality is that the cervical pap smear test is not very sensitive nor reproducible, studies have shown the false negative rate can be as high as 50%, so similar to tossing a coin whether the abnormal cells get caught or not. This can be improved with more modern techniques, but the rate of false negatives is still as high as 20%. It’s just not a very reliable test, testing for HPV is far more reliable.

It’s also untrue that the standard in the US is annual pap smear testing, the recommendation is every three years.

I suspect the number of false negative readings in Ireland may be no higher than any other country, but the rate of undetected cervical cancer must historically be much higher, given that screening didn’t start until 2008.


so Obrien knew in march 2016, did the then minister, leo, know?




I wouldn’t have thought so. A memo of that kind would almost certainly have gone into DOH at sec gen level and it’s not credible that Leo wouldn’t have seen it then.


Tony O’Brien has stepped down. Another one that will walk off into the sunset like fingers fingleton


Tony O’Brien has stepped down as HSE Director amid cervical cancer scandal


If I am reading this right the HSE deliberately delayed telling patients’ doctors about their cancer diagnoses in order to mitigate negative media attention and allow more time for their spin machine.
Being kicked out of his job is the least should happen O’Brien. He is resigning in disgrace and should have his lump sum and pension withdrawn.


If this happened across the Atlantic, there would be lads facing manslaughter charges by now


And we’d know nothing about it if the slippery spin obsessed cunts got their way and Vicky Phelan signed that confidentiality agreement.


I’m not sure that’s the case. My understanding is that the screening threw up false negatives. This is expected in a program of this nature. In the meantime some women got diagnosed with cancer and were being treated for it. They weren’t told about the false negatives but it didn’t impact upon their cancer treatment. Still an absolute shocker from the HSE but not as clear cut as saying they could have prevented the cancer. In fact I think they were caught as false negatives when samples were re-examined after cancer was detected. The thing is that as there was always going to be false negatives then you’d imagine they could have planned a better response.


No, like most people commenting on this you have it wrong.


Can you explain why anyone should be charged with man slaughter in this case?


They should be in jail


I made a bit of a balls of that post. I should have said missed cancer diagnoses. The following from the Irish Times today describing the response to the 2016 memo:
“Its next steps were to pause all letters, await advice of solicitors, decide on the order and volume of dispatch to mitigate any potential risks and continue to prepare reactive communications response for a media headline that ‘screening did not diagnose my cancer’.” really sums up the HSE priorities. Their reflex reaction always seems to cover up and spin. Maybe this culture is a result of the whole thing being too big and unwieldy. I don’t envy the new boss and the job that faces him.


Hard to think of a govt dept/semi-state/public sector body that’s any different sadly


I can’t tbh. Let me rephrase. At the very least a criminal investigation should be initiated.


Well as it’s a screening program, not a diagnostic one, it wouldn’t have been “missed cancer diagnoses” either.

Some of the political point scoring off this has been genuinely disturbing and potentially puts further women at risk by undermining a worthwhile screening program.

That aside, the HSE response was poor. I suspect it mostly arises from a misjudged effort to minimise legal and financial liability. Again though, knowing that there would be false negatives, this was always going to be an issue


You are doing a lot better than the HSE at defending their position here tbh


It would clearly have been much better for the HSE/Health minister to get out in front of this issue instead of reactively. Bureaucrats are not good at that type of thing unfortunately and prefer to wait until the SHTF. The concerns raised in the memo though have some merit as the media circus surrounding this case unfolds. You only have to read the comments after the journal article posted above to see how nuts the reaction is, driven by media hysteria.

The reality is even in the US, where pap smear cancer testing has been done for decades, about 4,500 women die of cervical cancer every year, and about 12,500 new cases diagnosed. The test just isn’t that reliable, with on average 20% false negatives. The narrative that’s being spun, or at least believed, is that HSE cock ups have caused the deaths of dozens of Irish women. This is utter nonsense, cervical cancer screening saves millions of lives worldwide and likely thousands in Ireland, but sadly some are not detected or detected early enough.


What crime?