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Which part of 'urgent' does MoH not understand?

Which part of 'urgent' does Health Ministry not understand?

The Greens are dismayed the results of the 'urgent' cervical cancer smear audit have been delayed by yet another estimated 12 months - meaning it will be nearly three years late when it finally reports.

"And that is only if it reports on time this time, which is highly unlikely based on past experience," Green Health and Women's Affairs Spokesperson Sue Kedgley said today.

"The latest delay means it is now 26 months since the Gisborne Cervical Screening Inquiry recommended the audit of the national screening programme, and 20 months since it was first due to be completed.

"What is going on here? Why the perpetual delay? The situation is scandalous," Ms Kedgley said.

"Delaying the evaluation for yet another estimated 12 months calls into question the efficacy, value and purpose of the entire national cervical screening programme.

"What is the purpose of women having regular smears if they have no confidence in the screening programme and no idea, at the end of the day, if their smears have been accurately read or not?"

The Gisborne Cervical Screening Inquiry recommended, when it reported in April 2001, that the audit of the national cervical cancer screening programme be completed in six months, by November 2001.* [see below]. But in November 2001, an 18-month delay was announced, meaning the audit should have reported this month.

Ms Kedgley said the ongoing delays mean huge question marks surround the screening programme and, until the evaluation is complete, women can have no confidence in it. "The Health Ministry's foot dragging is putting the health of thousands of New Zealand women at risk, and the Ministry should be held to account for its repeated failures," she said.

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

"The whole country saw the pain of the women in Gisborne, who were failed by the cervical screening programme," she said. "The Government has to make this a priority and ensure that women getting a smear test can be confident that it will be read properly," Ms Kedgley said.

* For confirmation of the six-month timeframe recommended by the Gisborne Cervical Screening Inquiry report, April 2001, refer point 11.1 at the following web link:

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