Fourth bungled test claimed

By Fiona Barber

A fourth woman developed invasive cervical cancer after misreported smear tests by a Gisborne pathologist, says Alliance health spokeswoman Phillida Bunkle.

When the list MP raised the smear scare in Parliament last week she detailed three cases of women developing the disease, as well as a young man who had skin cancer. One of the women and the man had died.


Phillida Bunkle said yesterday that another woman had been diagnosed with cancer in 1997 after an earlier smear test reported clear. The woman had a radical hysterectomy and radiotherapy.

Another five cases involved women who now had high-grade cell abnormalities following a history of clear slides.

Those five, she believed, were among seven families being supported by the Cancer Society.

Phillida Bunkle asked the Minister of Health, Wyatt Creech, last week what steps were being taken to warn Gisborne women of potential misdiagnosis of cancer, and yesterday said that action should have been taken earlier.

Two women with a history of apparently clear smears were diagnosed in 1996 and at that point alarms bells should have rung, she said.

That view was backed in Gisborne this week.

Barbara Baillie, a member of the Gisborne Community Health Committee, said she had not heard from any health officials about what was being done.

"People keep saying how we mustn't have a panic," she said. "Of course we must have a panic if things like this are kept secret for months, if not years."

Barbara Baillie said information had come out in dribs and drabs. It would have been better if someone had informed women properly.

"This is carrying on the unfortunate experiment," she said, referring to the National Women's Hospital cancer scandal that Phillida Bunkle helped to expose in the 1980s.

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