Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Failure to finance infant hearing screening a scandal - Ó Caoláin

2 May, 2006


Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health and Children, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, has called on the Minister for Health to immediately provide the €6 million needed over a three year period to fund a Universal Neonatal Hearing Screening service. Deputy Ó Caoláin made his call after it emerged, in a response to the Sinn Féin TD from the Health Service Executive that while a report into Hearing Screening had been completed and was under consideration by the HSE no funding had been allocated to advance the project.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said, "It is a scandal that the recommendations of a report commissioned by the former Health Boards into hearing tests for infants is lying unimplemented due to lack of resources and finance.

"There are more than 80 children born in this state each year with Sensorineural Hearing Loss. The average age children undergo the current test to screen for the condition is approximately 30 months which exceeds internationally recognised targets of 4-6months for confirmation of hearing loss in infants. The Health Service Executive itself recognises that the opportunity to benefit from early identification is lost with such late referrals and can only be achieved through neonatal screening of infants in the early weeks of life.

"In relative terms the €6 million needed is a small price to pay to introduce Universal Neonatal Hearing Screening service over a three year phased basis. It will be money well spent to avoid the unnecessary anguish and frustration experienced by infants and their parents due to late diagnosis of hearing loss and so that proper remedial measures can be undertaken to deal with hearing loss in an infant at an early stage." ENDS

HEARING SCREENING QUESTION TO MINISTER FOR HEALTH

Question from Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin to Minister for Health...

(Question was referred to HSE)

"To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason the State has no hearing screening programme for newborn children; and her plans to introduce such a programme."

Response from Health Service Executive to Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Re: PQ Reference 13474/06

"More than 80 children are born in the Republic of Ireland each year with Sensorineural Hearing Loss. The average age of identification using the current "distraction test" screening programme is approximately 30 months; this exceeds internationally recognised targets of 4-6 months for confirmation of hearing loss in infants. It is recognised that the opportunity to benefit from early identification is lost with such late referrals and can only be achieved through neonatal screening of all infants in the early weeks of life.

"A report into Universal Neonatal Hearing Screening was commissioned by the former Health Boards and has just recently been completed. The Health Service Executive is currently examining this report, however to date no funding has been allocated to advance this particular project.

"It is currently estimated that, over a three year phased basis, the cost of introducing a Universal Neonatal Hearing Screening service would be approximately €6.2 million to cover staffing and necessary equipment."

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