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Reilly: "Priority" to offer children bilateral cochlear implants in 2014

Parents are calling on the Government to fit children with two cochlear implants as standard, instead of the current one.

Minister for Health Dr James Reilly
Minister for Health Dr James Reilly
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

HEALTH MINISTER JAMES Reilly has said that providing children with bilateral cochlear implants in 2014 is “a high priority” for the government.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams and Fianna Fáil TD Billy Kelleher both raised the issue of cochlear implants for children in the Dáil this week.

Currently, children in Ireland who receive cochlear implants receive one, rather than two as is best practice in other countries.

Deanna Cairns, whose son Billy has an implant, is part of the Happy New Ear campaign, which is run by parents seeking to have two cochlear implants set as standard in Ireland.

Hopeful

She told TheJournal.ie that they were very pleased with the mention of their campaign in the Dáil. She said the parents are hopeful that the Minister won’t go back on anything he said, and that they are not going to back down on their campaign.

The Happy New Ear campaign met with Deputy Kelleher last week and had previously met Deputy Adams. They are hoping to hold a meeting with all of the TDs on 27 March, as they hope to “keep the pressure on”. “Until this is pushed through the door we can’t get excited,” said Cairns.

A report on the situation is due in June. “We’re definitely making good progress,” said Cairns.

Deputy Kelleher told the Health Minister he realises the budgetary position that Reilly is faced with, “but we must act if we are to allow children to reach their full potential”.

I realise that not much can be done between now and the Estimates for 2014 but at least a process could be put in place and the services could be nailed down. Then we could go ahead with the sequential implantation and simultaneous implantation for those who are born from here on.

Minister Reilly said that there are approximately 200 children in Ireland today who may be suitable for a second implant, and that the HSE is working closely with Beaumont Hospital to progress plans for both simultaneous and sequential bilateral implantation.

He said that representatives from 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 process will be the development of clear clinical criteria to prioritise clients for assessment and follow-on implantation. Each child must be assessed to determine if he or she is suitable for a bilateral implant.
The development of the service will require additional resources for Beaumont Hospital. I am pleased to report that these plans will be progressed through the HSE 2014 Estimates process.

He said that “high priority” is being given to this matter and the department will have provision to undertake the bilateral implantations next year. “I do not want any child to miss out on the opportunity to have bilateral hearing and the same chances as other children,” said the Minister.

The Estimates for this year do not allow us to immediately engage in bilateral implantations, although some have been carried out. It is a priority for me to start providing them next year and we will enter into negotiations with Beaumont Hospital in this regard.

Read: “We are hopeful”: Cochlear implants campaign gets boost>

Read: “It’s a shame”: Parents appeal for funding for cochlear implants>

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