Hearing screening anomalies in Hawke's Bay

MARTY SHARPE
Last updated 09:50 01/02/2013

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Hawke's Bay District Health Board has today said that it has also seen ''anomalies'' in some screening results in the Newborn Hearing Screening Programme in the past four years.

This follows the release of a report today that said an inquiry launched by the Health Ministry towards the end of last year discovered irregularities in its national newborn screening programme, which began in 2007.

The investigation found eight screeners, out of a workforce of about 108, had not followed protocol. They had either screened the same ear of a baby twice, screened one ear followed by one of their own ears, or in some cases screened both their own ears instead of the baby's.

Irregularities in the screening programme were detected between June and November at six district health boards - Auckland, Lakes, Bay of Plenty, Waitemata, Canterbury and Hutt Valley.

A Hawke's Bay District Health Board spokeswoman said it was announcing the anomalies now as an audit had only just found them in recent days.

She said the final number of babies that will be offered rescreening is still to be finally determined in Hawke's Bay as the audit data now needs to be manually matched against individual medical records of children screened.

Paediatric clinical director Philip Moore said the district health board was confident the chance a baby with congenital hearing loss had been missed was extremely low.

"We believe offering retesting to babies affected by the screening anomalies is the safest and most responsible option."

Dr Moore urged parents or caregivers concerned about their babies hearing to consult their GP or Plunket Nurse, regardless of any previous results of hearing tests or screening tests.

The final number of babies needing to be recalled will be completed by the end of February and letters would be sent out to parents offering a rescreen.

Dr Moore said the priority was to complete the manual matching as quickly as possible so the DHB could reduce any anxiety or concern parents were experiencing.

The DHB regretted that the irregularities in the screening programme may have missed an opportunity to identify hearing loss at the earliest possible stage, but it was sure it could now quickly identify those infants that needed to be rescreened, he said.

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- The Dominion Post

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