Government risks women’s health

The Irish Well Woman this week released their annual report for 2009. The centres noticed a marked increase in uptake for their free smear test scheme in the first half of the year. This was partly due to the “Jade Goody” effect and also the state funding of the scheme.

In the second half of 2009 the health minister cut funding for this scheme and women must now await an invitation letter before being able to avail of the National Cervical Screening Programme. This has lead to a huge decrease in the number of women being screened for cervical cancer.

This disease can affect even young women as we saw in the case of Jade Goody who died of cervical cancer in 2009 at the age of 27. The current National Cervical Screening Programme only covers women aged 25 to 60. The programme must be made available to all women so as to effectively combat cervical cancer.

The HPV virus that can cause cervical cancer is common amongst sexually active people. Therefore, the programme should be extended to all young women in particular and made as accessible as possible.

The report also highlights the link between health and economic status. With three centres in different demographic areas of Dublin they have seen clearly that the financial situation of each woman affects her health. “Throughout the year, we heard from our patients of the impact of financial worries on their health decisions”, Mary Worrall Chairperson of Well Woman.

A proper free vaccination programme against HPV and a free screening programme is essential and could cut across the majority of cases of cervical cancer, potentially saving the lives of women every year. The Socialist Party stands for a massive state investment in a genuinely comprehensive and free cervical screening and vaccination programme for all young women, and a fightback against a system that will never put peoples’ health before profits.