Reilly urged to fund ear implants programme

Families of profoundly deaf children who are failing to receive “best practice” care are to write to James Reilly, the health minister, urging him to fund the treatments.

Irish Deaf Kids members have suggested the idea on the group’s Facebook page after the budget problems behind the chronic service delays were revealed by the Irish Examiner.

Figures from Beaumont Hospital show 350 children have been told they must wait up to six years for second cochlear ear implants to address their profound deafness. Even then, there is no guarantee they will receive the vital aid as the hospital is only funded to provide implants for one ear.

This is despite the fact the facility and the HSE recognise bilateral devices costing €36-40,000 are international “best practice”.

Among the families highlighting the situation are Dr Rachel Fellowes, a junior doctor from Skibbereen, West Cork, whose nine- month-old son Benjamin is facing a five-year delay.

Julie and Keith Mc-Cormack’s son, Liam, who was the subject of series of service flaws which meant his deafness went untreated for 17 months, is another caught up in the difficulties.

Other families have detailed on the Irish Deaf Kids Facebook page that they, too, are facing delays.

After directly contacting Beaumont Hospital, some have called for a campaign of letters to Dr Reilly detailing the consequences to their children of the funding problems.

“Lorraine,” who described herself as a parent of a child with one implant, wrote: “Anyone wanting to do something to help Beaumont get funding for bilateral implants?

“They advise us to write individual letters to the Minister for Health and copy these letters to Liam Duffy, chief executive of Beaumont Hospital.”

Advocacy group www.deafhear.ie has stressed that the implant problems are in stark contrast to improvements in diagnosing children at an early age.

However, it said non-access to bilateral cochlear hearing implants at a later date due is of concern.

The daily impact of the budget problems facing the programme come despite the fact two reports since 2011 have stated bilateral cochlear ear implant services should be funded.

Since 2009, Beaumont has been seeking funding for the programme. The HSE is considering its latest bid.

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