The recent proposed revamp of the National Cervical Screening Program to change over to HPV testing, has now become more of a hindrance than a help. The revamp was put in place to improve the processing of Pap smear results, but at this point, has done quite the opposite.

The program revamp was set to roll out on May 1, 2017, but has now been put off due to the screening register not being ready by the proposed roll out date. The register itself is being outsourced to Telstra, but as a result of Telstra’s delay, existing procedures will need to be re-established and continued until the new system is ready to go.

The problem that this delay has caused, is that in preparation for the new system to roll out, many cytologists opted for voluntary redundancy packages because the new program only requires 1 in 6 cytologists for it to be successful. As most of these redundancies have an employment end date of May 1, unless the current staff can be convinced to stay on until the new register is ready, labs will be facing understaffing issues, which will ultimately result in the delay of patients’ test results.

There is already anger and frustration amongst the medical community as delays have been evident since the staffing changes started to happen, as a result of the program’s deferral; it appears that delays will only get worse.

There is much deliberation, amongst those involved/impacted by the overhaul, as to whether the outsourcing of the register to Telstra was the right choice. Telstra Health have no experience developing cancer registries, which begs the question, ‘why choose them to manage such a delicate and important record keeping system?’

While most people in the medical world, government and within the community would agree that having a program roll out before it is perfect would be even more of a disaster than a lack of staffing and/or Pap smear results delays, it is disappointing to see that something that affects so many people has been planned so poorly.

The Department of Health stated that they are, “firmly committed to delivering the Register as early as possible within the 2017 calendar year.” The hopes of many are that they stand by their word and that the new system’s execution will remain a top priority to ensure minimal wait time and a decrease, rather than an increase, in delays.

For information on Pap smears, Femscreen, reproductive health, contraception, vasectomy, abortion procedures and more, call one of our 5 gynaecology clinics in Wollongong, Canberra, Newcastle, Gosford or Sydney.