Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Questions (676, 679, 714)

Gerald Nash

Question:

676. Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Health if the Health Service Executive intends to upgrade and enhance the audiology unit in Beaumont Hospital, Dublin; if the HSE intends to make resources available to enable all children who require bilateral cochlear implants to have the essential procedure carried out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9838/13]

View answer

Billy Kelleher

Question:

679. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health the outcome of the business plan submission made by Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, for consideration in the 2013 Service Plan for the provision of bilateral cochlear implants; the action being taken and the timeframe involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9855/13]

View answer

Gerry Adams

Question:

714. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Health further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 671, 735 and 736 of 19 February 2013, the steps that will be put in place to deal with children who suffer late onset hearing impairment or deafness which may not be picked up in new born screening; the way this group will be affected by any decision that the Health Service Executive and Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, come to in relation to cochlear implants; if he envisages an age cut off point; if guidelines will be put in place to identify which children are suitable for bilateral implants; and if he will ensure that those children who suffer from late onset hearing impairment will not be discriminated against. [10229/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 676, 679 and 714 together.

The HSE undertook a National Review of Audiology Services. The National Audiology Review Group developed a comprehensive set of recommendations to address the inconsistencies and inadequacies in audiology services which are contained in the HSE Report of the National Review of Audiology Services published in April 2011.

This report provides the blueprint for the planning, development and delivery of HSE audiology services, from new- born screening to assessment and management of adults and children with hearing problems, including cochlear implantation. That report included a recommendation that continued ring-fenced financial support be provided for the cochlear implant programme but at levels which allow for simultaneous bilateral implantation for children.

Since then, the HSE Audiology Clinical Care Programme was formed to oversee the implementation of the recommendations detailed by this report. Progress is being made on the modernisation of audiology services in Ireland with the introduction of a universal national programme of new-born hearing screening a key priority.

Beaumont Hospital is the centre for delivering Ireland’s national cochlear implant programme, with surgical provision for patients under six (6) years carried out in the Children’s University Hospital Temple Street. While no dedicated programme for simultaneous or sequential cochlear implantation is being carried out in Ireland at this time, some bilateral implantation has already occurred for patients, mainly very young children with certain medical conditions such as a history of meningitis or blindness. It is estimated that there are approximately 200 children in Ireland today who may be suitable for a second implant. Not all suitable patients proceed with the second implant when appraised of all the issues involved.

I am aware that Beaumont Hospital, HSE Management and the HSE’s Audiology Clinical Care Programme have met recently to discuss a joint process to identify the options for developing and resourcing a programme of simultaneous and sequential cochlear implantation. An important element of this will be the development of clear clinical criteria to prioritise clients for assessment and follow on implantation. The HSE has advised that these plans will be progressed through the HSE 2014 estimates process.