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Government Toys With Women's Health - Greens

Green Health spokesperson Sue Kedgley said today the Government was toying with women's health by under-resourcing the new National Screening Unit, and refusing to set it up independently.

"After a very expensive inquiry into what went wrong in Gisborne, the Government has failed to set up a fully functional screening unit as recommended by the inquiry team," said Ms Kedgley.

A report by international expert Dr Euphemia McGoogan yesterday warned that the unit was in crisis - struggling with underfunding, overwork and a lack of independence. She also expressed serious concerns about the failure to complete an audit of the system until 2003.

"What is the point of maintaining a national register and running a $33 million cervical screening programme if women do not have confidence in it," said Ms Kedgley.

"When an international expert is unable to reassure New Zealand women that the national screening programme is safe and effective, or that the mistakes made in Gisborne have not happened elsewhere, one has to question the purpose and value of the programme.

"Unless we restore confidence in the screening programme, women will be less likely to go to the trouble of getting regular smears, which after all is the whole point."

Ms Kedgley said she was gravely concerned by the Auditor General's view that the safety of all women participants in the programme is potentially at risk because the audit has not even been begun.

"The whole country has seen the pain of the women in Gisborne who were failed by the cervical screening programme," she said.

"I would have thought that one of the Government's priorities in this term would have been to sort the situation out and make sure that women getting a smear test can be confident that it would be read properly."

Ends

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