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File photo of a cochlear implant AP Photo/Mark Baker

"Big step" in cochlear campaign as parents meet Health Minister

Parents campaigning for bilateral cochlear implants met with James Reilly and an Oireachtas committee yesterday.

THE CAMPAIGN FOR bilateral cochlear implants for children with hearing difficulties has seen a boost thanks to a meeting with the Health Minister.

Deanna Cairns, the mother of Billy Cairns (4) who has a cochlear implant, told that she and other parents met with Minister James Reilly and also took part in a session with the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children this week.

Cairns and the other parents at the committee meeting were from the Happy New Ear group. They are campaigning for two (bilateral) cochlear implants to be fitted on children who need them, rather than one. Currently one cochlear implant is standard in Ireland, but bilateral implants are standard in other countries.

‘On our side’

“They were on our side,” said Cairns of yesterday’s meetings. Though Minister Reilly said he couldn’t give the parents a commitment about the bilateral implants, Cairns said that after meeting him they are “hopeful it will come in in 2014″.

“He was very supportive of our campaign,” she said. The Minister is due to go through a business plan submitted to him and the HSE on the issue. People who worked on the plan include professionals working in the cochlear implants area.

Cairns said the meeting did seem positive and that the committee was glad to see “we are all on the same page”.

The parents are concerned about the backlog being built up as children access the second cochlear implant. They were asked about this issue at the committee.

The parents said the backlog could be three – five years, while the committee said they hoped it could be down to two years.

The parents were also asked do the implants fail. “There were only one or two that failed,” said Cairns. The issue of stem cell research was  discussed, and Cairns said that “could be 20 years down the line – by the time that comes out for our kids it would be too late”.

Cairns said they felt the Minister is listening to the campaigning parents and that he supports them. “It’s a big step in the campaign,” she said.

Dr Laura Viani of the National Cochlear Implant Programme in Beautmont Hospital spoke to the cross -party committee yesterday on the issue. She is one of the authors of the report being given to the health minister.

She has been working with Happy New Ear on their campaign.

Cairns hopes that the work will begin on viewing the business plan over the summer, and that it will help move the issue forward after Dáil recess.

“We just need to know as soon as they want to do it,” she said.

Read: Concern over backlog for cochlear implants>

Read: Billy’s fight to hear as parents call for cochlear implants>

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