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Gisborne Cervical Screening Inquiry

WOMEN concerned they will be unable to make submissions to the Gisborne Cervical Screening Inquiry because they don't yet know whether they have been affected will not be excluded, Director-General of Health Karen Poutasi said today.

"The whole point of the inquiry is to work out what went wrong, why, and to see whether it could be happening anywhere else. Obviously the Inquiry Team will want to do as thorough a job as it can to reassure women throughout New Zealand that the cervical screening programme is safe and effective."

"Any woman who has any interest in the inquiry - and that includes any woman who had a smear test in the Gisborne area from 1990-1996 - can legitimately attend the public meetings to be held later this week to have a say about how the inquiry will be conducted.

"The intention of the preliminary meetings is to give the Inquiry Team a feel for the scope of the inquiry so it can plan its hearings. It seems clear to me that the concerns being raised now in the media could and should be raised at those meetings."

More women are now concerned that their smear tests may have been misread by Gisborne pathologist Dr Michael Bottrill. This follows the Health Funding Authority's announcement yesterday that Dr Bottrill had reported as high-grade only 92 of the 625 high-grade abnormalities found by a Sydney laboratory re-reading all his slides.

Dr Poutasi said the fact that not all Dr Bottrill's slides had yet been re-read had been taken into account when the terms of reference for the inquiry had been drawn up in September.

The inquiry was announced after re-reading of a first batch of slides showed significant under-reporting of abnormalities. Re-reading of all Dr Bottrill's cervical slides is due for completion by January 2000 - well within the Inquiry Team's timeframe.

"I understand that there will be very deep concern both for those women who know their smear tests were misread and those who don't yet know but suspect the worst."

"Let me reassure you about the additional services the HFA has put in place so women can be re-tested, and fast-tracked if necessary for further testing or treatment."

"Let me also urge women in either category, their families, whanau, friends and other support people, to avail themselves of the opportunity they will have later this week to talk to the Inquiry Team about their submissions."

Preliminary meetings of the Inquiry team of Ailsa Duffy, QC, Mrs Druis Barrett and Dr Gordon Wright will be held in Gisborne: at the Lawson Field Theatre, Vogel St, Gisborne, 9am 18/11/1999 Auckland: Lakeside Convention Centre, Montgomerie Rd, Mangere, 9am 19/11/1999

ends

attch: Terms of Reference.

MINISTERIAL INQUIRY INTO THE UNDER-REPORTING OF CERVICAL SMEAR ABNORMALITIES IN THE GISBORNE REGION

To conduct an inquiry into the apparent mis-reading and/or mis-reporting (collectively described in these terms as under-reporting) of abnormalities in cervical smears in the Gisborne region, taking into account the results of the review of histology samples from 1990 to 1996 carried out by the Health Funding Authority, on the following terms:

1. To identify the factors that are likely to have led to under-reporting of abnormalities in cervical smears in the Gisborne region.

2. To satisfy yourselves whether or not this was an isolated case rather than evidence of a systemic issue for the National Cervical Screening Programme.

3. To identify changes already made to legislation, to laboratory or other processes or to professional practices to address the risks of under-reporting of abnormalities in cervical smears.

4. To identify other changes agreed to be implemented, either by the Government or by professional organisations, that will further address any risks of under-reporting of abnormalities in cervical smears.

5. To consider all relevant proposals that could ameliorate any risks of under-reporting of abnormalities in cervical smears and identify whether these are covered by 3. or 4. above and whether further changes are needed.

6. To comment on any other issue the Inquiry Team believes to be of particular relevance.

7. To make recommendations, consistent with section 4 (a) of the Health and Disability Services Act 1993, as to any future action the Government or its agencies should consider taking.


ends

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