MINISTER for Health and Children Mary Harney visited the Louth County Hospital in Dundalk on Monday morning to official open the North East Regional Colposcopy Service.
The service is a dedicated unit for women requiring further investigation following a smear test and has already catered for 1,128 women since moving from Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda on February 8.
The Colposcopy Unit, which is situated on the first floor of the hospital in the old operating theatres will provide patients with privacy and comfort, according to the HSE.
The unit includes a reception and waiting area, meet, greet and history taking room, examination room, treatment room with recovery area and supporting administration offices.
The unit was refurbished at a cost of e500,000 with e100,000 being spent on equipment. The finance for the equipment and refurbishment was provided by the National Cancer Screen Service, through the Cervical Check programme.
Speaking at the opening moments after taking a tour of the new unit, Minister Harney said: "It is a great pleasure to be here for what is, by any standards, a good news story.
"What we've just seen is state-of-the-art and screening is essential in terms of preventing the development of cervical cancer."
Minister Harney also praised her cabinet colleague Dermot Ahern for his role in helping to secure the Colposcopy Unit for the Louth County.
She said the hospital was "close to his heart" and said she was optimistic that further services would be provided for at the Louth in the future including colorectal screening and palliative care.
Speaking about the Louth Hospital, Minister Harney said there was a "need to maximize the facility here in Louth" and added that the hospital "has a very sound future".
She admitted that it "might not be as it was in the past" but said that health services worldwide were changing and that Ireland had to move with the times.
The Health Minister also indicated that the Colposcopy Service had been a huge success in Dundalk since being centralised there earlier this year.
"It has catered for 1,128 women since it opened whereas the previous service catered for 429. That shows that the rate of referral has increased three fold and shows that there is now a much better and wider service available to the women of this region," she said.