When it was announced that the national Pap smear screening program was going to receive a complete overhaul, in an attempt to improve early cancer detection and save more lives, the reaction from the medical community and the public was naturally one of enthusiasm.

The renewed cervical cancer screening program has gained much support due to the fact that it can detect HPV, which, depending on the type of the virus may be the first sign that changes may occur leading that cervical cancer. The new program was set to roll out on May 1, 2017.

Unfortunately, for the public, the medical community and the cytologists who opted for voluntary redundancies, due to their services not being required in as large numbers once the revamped system rolled out, the implementation of the new program has been delayed until, at least, December, 2017.

The delay has been caused by the fact that the screening register will not be ready in time for the original May 1 start date. This has caused outrage and frustration amongst GPs and pathologists as the outsourcing of the register to Telstra Health was questioned from the beginning because the company had no experience developing cancer registries.

The anger that has been stirred up is not simply due to the fact that people now have to wait for the new program to begin, more so because the delay of test results is already evident. Delays were apparent when the cytology staffing changes began and now that the roll out has been pushed out and labs will be understaffed, further delays are expected.

There is of course the possibility that staff will decide to stay beyond their original finish dates of May 1, which would certainly help solve part of the problem.

Until the renewed National Cervical Screening Program is ready to roll out, the previous system will remain in place. Women who were waiting to book their pap smears to be able to use the new service have been urged, by the Department of Health, to “continue to participate in the current two yearly Pap test program to ensure they are not at risk of developing cervical cancer.”

For information on pap smears, Femscreen, contraception, sterilization, Hormone Releasing Intrauterine System (IUS), abortion, fertility or reproductive health advice, early pregnancy advice and other gynaecological services, visit one of our five gynaecology clinics in Wollongong, Canberra, Newcastle, Gosford or Sydney – or contact us online.