Monitoring of health professionals must improve
"It is of great concern that the pathologist had an error rate that was three times the acceptable level when analysing slides from cervical smears. It is possible hundreds of women from the Gisborne area were given the all clear, when their slides actually show high-grade abnormalities.
"Everything possible must now be done to assist those women. The inquiry must find ways to prevent a reoccurrence and a Labour government would expect to act on the resulting recommendations immediately. Labour will work urgently with health professionals and administrators to ensure an adequate quality of analysis of smears.
"This case is a tragic reminder of the need for health managers to be vigilant and to recognise the particular problem of health professionals working in isolation in provincial areas.
"The inquiry must look at the standards applied by Regional Health Authorities during the period the pathologist was working and whether monitoring procedures were adequate.
"The competitive health model imposed over the past 9 years encourages secrecy and lacks accountability. Labour in government will move quickly to establish new standards.
"The education and training of health professionals will once again be a core function of the public health service. The Ministry of Health will have a regulation and audit directorate charged with protecting the public and improving the overall standard of health delivery.
"The immediate priority must be to assist Gisborne women. But there is also a need to review the entire cervical screening programme, to establish whether it is effective and working to an optimum level. That review is long overdue and has been demanded by many women's organisations. Labour will ensure that it is carried out," Annette King said.