Families of children denied ear implants to protest

Families of deaf children blocked from accessing life-changing “international best practice” implants because the HSE will not fund the procedures are to protest at a major hospital today.

Parents will meet with Beaumont chief executive Liam Duffy at 11am to highlight their concerns over the HSE’s failure to provide bilateral cochlear ear implants in Ireland.

They will then travel to HSE offices in Swords, north Dublin, to hand in letters about their children’s cases.

As first revealed by the Irish Examiner in December, 350 children are blocked from accessing bilateral cochlear ear implant care because of the HSE’s chronic financial problems. While Beaumont has repeatedly asked since 2009 for funds to be made available, the HSE said it is not feasible in the current climate.

As such, the children are unable to receive care that is available in Britain and most other EU and North American countries — with some waiting more than six years for help.

Bilateral cochlear ear implants can effectively help severely deaf children to hear in some form. This is possible for patients whose deafness is caused by damage in the cochlea, as the implant joins two other parts of the ear through surgery, making the cochlea issue irrelevant.

But due to the estimated €40,000 cost of the double procedures, the HSE will only fund one ear implant. As such, children face speech, language, education, and social difficulties because while a single cochlear implant in one ear improves hearing, it still falls far short of standards doctors believe are required.

Groups such as www.deafhear.ie have raised concerns over the situation, while Mr Duffy has made it clear medics at Beaumont believe the double implants are needed to prevent problems for children in later life.

In December, Mr Duffy said: “The hospital has been in contact with the HSE since 2009 regarding the funding necessary for the bilateral services and submitted a business case in Oct 2012.”

The HSE has yet to make a decision on whether to fund bilateral implants.

*More on the second cochlear ear implants campaign can be read at the Facebook group Happy New Ear.

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