HSE apologises to woman for communication failures over smear test audit
Posted on 30th October 2019 at 21:02
Apology is part of settlement of case taken by woman with months to live
The HSE and the Cervical Check screening programme have apologised to a mother of two, who is seriously ill with cancer, over communications failures concerning a smear test audit.
The apology is part of a settlement, made without admission of liability, of the woman’s High Court case brought against the HSE and three laboratories.
The woman was diagnosed with cancer in April 2013 about a year after a 2012 smear test was reported by a US-based laboratory as indicating no abnormality.
She underwent a radical hysterectomy in 2013, experienced a recurrence of cancer in 2014 and now has a poor prognosis.
Her lawyers said she was “completely in the dark” until May 2018 that there had been a misreading of her 2012 smear slide.
Her consultant colposcopist was not told until 2016 that a 2014 review by a laboratory of the 2012 slide had found there was a high grade squamous intraepithelial lesion and atypical glandular cells which amounted to a “miss”, her counsel Patrick Treacy SC had earlier told the court.
She was informed of that in May 2018 by the colposcopist.
Her side claimed she probably had early stage cancer in February 2012 and, had that been identified and treated speedily, the outcome would have been better and it was unlikely the recurrence would have happened.
It was accepted she would have had to undergo a radical hysterectomy as she had in 2013.
The woman, aged in her forties, and her husband brought proceedings against the HSE and three laboratories - Medlab Pathology Ltd and Sonic Healthcare (Ireland Ltd), both with offices at Sandyford Business Park, Dublin, and Texas based Clinical Pathology Laboratories Incorporated.
All of the defendants were separately represented and all denied liability.
The defendant laboratories are all subsidiaries of Sonic Healthcare, a global healthcare group headquartered in Australia.
The case opened last week and was settled on Wednesday following talks between the sides.
On behalf of the HSE and Cervical Check, a “sincere and unreserved apology” was made for “the failure by the Cervical Check programme to communicate with the woman in “a timely and appropriate way” the results of an audit that indicated a change in the interpretation of her original smear test.
The HSE said it had “mishandled” the communicating of the findings of the audits carried out on cervical smears.
“As a result we have failed the very patients who we had set out to protect.”
It added: “We can only express our sincere regret to you and your family for what has happened and it’s devastating consequences.”
A number of paragraphs of the letter of apology, to be sent to the woman, were read to Mr Justice Kevin Cross after he was told by Mr Treacy, instructed by Cian O’ Carroll solicitors, the case had been settled without an admission of liability.
Mr Justice Cross congratulated the parties on achieving a settlement and wished the woman and her family well for the future.
In evidence earlier, the woman said it was like “being slapped on the face” when she heard in May last year of the alleged incorrect reporting of her cervical smear slide six years earlier.
She said she asked the consultant why the letter about the review of her 2012 cervical smear slide had not been forwarded to her GP.
“He said he had put it in my file and put it away. It felt like my world was falling in on me.”
The woman, who cannot be named by order of the court, had confirmed in evidence last week she recently got bad news that she is no longer in remission. Doctors have advised her best prognosis is now three to six months.
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