'We could end up losing a lot more lives' – 90pc of women recently called for smear tests didn't turn up – Stephen Donnelly

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NINETY per cent of women recently called for a smear test have not turned up, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has told the Dáil.

One of the programme we all support is the national screening services. I was informed in the last few days that 90 per cent of women invited for the smear test or new cervical test are not turning up,” Mr Donnelly said, even though the test is provided free.

“I don’t blame anyone,” he said, noting that cervical cancer services had been “much discussed” in the Dáil in recent times.

“People have different reasons, and it has been a very difficult year for so many. But it is essential that people continue to engage in the health care system,” Mr Donnelly declared.

“Because otherwise we can find ourselves in a situation, through people not engaging and presenting as early as they normally would, we could end up losing an awful lot more lives and an awful lot more healthy years for people to live.”

He has appealed for people to recognise that non-Covid Health services are fully in place, and they should not be afraid to attend hospital appointments.

“I would like to give a message to people across the country for the next six weeks, and it is to do with non-Covid care,” Minister Donnelly said. “During the initial effort to flatten the curve, a lot of health services were closed.

“One of the things that happened was a very serious drop-off in people presenting to their GPs. The number of people presenting with strokes and other conditions fell — and in a way that was very worrying to people working in emergency medicine and across the healthcare system.

“For very understandable reasons, there is still a very low level of presentation and referral across the country. People are scared and anxious and want to know that their healthcare system is safe,” he said.

“We are in the midst of a once-in-a-century pandemic,” he said. “Hospitals across Europe are under strain. But we are not prioritising care for people with Covid over those with cancer, for example.

“We are making every effort to retain capacity in our health service to treat all patients,” the Minister added during Dáil statements on the move to Level 5 lockdown.

“My concern, and that of NPHET, is that we would lose the ability to respond to these non-Covid ailments — to cancer, to stroke patients, to people injured in accidents, due to the strain that would be placed on hospitals in the worst case scenario.”

But in the meantime the message was that people should have confidence in the hospital system and turn up when called to appointments and screenings, Mr Donnelly said.

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Source: Irish News