More techs now processing Pap samples at Caja laboratory

The nation’s public health system said Monday that it has added 17 new technicians to the central cytology laboratory.

Last month public health workers issued a chilling report: That there are 200,000 cancer tests awaiting analysis and that the wait for women with suspected cervical cancer might be as much as a year. That claim came from the Unión Nacional de Empleados de la Caja y la Seguridad Social.

Monday Rodrigo Álvarez Ramírez, director del Laboratorio Nacional de Citologías, reported that 44 technicians are working to speed up the analysis of the pending tests.

He said that the technicians also will work Saturday starting this week to clear up the backlog. He estimated that the technicians could complete 1,800 studies a day.
The cost of the new employees is 100 million colons, some $200,000.

The new lab technicians come from the Universidad de Costa Rica, which has an agreement with the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social.

The director said that the lab processes 350,000 cancer tests per year. Most are Pap smears to protect or detect cervical cancer in women.

The Caja said that the mortality rate from these types of diseases had declined from 7.8 per every 100,000 women to 5.3 in 2010, in part due to the work at the lab.

When the union staged its protest March 8, a spokesman said that there were 200,000 samples awaiting inspection by a technician and that the samples were being handled incorrectly.

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