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Review into TUH audiology services

Published:  19 April 2023

The Townsville Hospital and Health Service (HHS) has commenced a clinical review into paediatric audiology services delivered by Townsville University Hospital.

Townsville HHS health service chief executive Kieran Keyes said the review would look at the quality of some audiological services delivered to north Queensland babies and children.

"We are taking this step as we believe follow-up diagnostic audiological testing for babies who were referred for extra testing after their newborn hearing screen and programming of cochlear implants may not have met appropriate clinical standards," Mr Keyes said.

"If we have concerns about the care your child has received through our audiology unit, you will be contacted directly by our team or the Queensland Health contact centre."

Mr Keyes said the decision to commence this review was made after the health service was alerted in December 2022 by Children’s Health Queensland (CHQ) to a pattern of ‘unexpected findings’ in the assessment of babies who had been referred for further diagnostic audiological testing. 

"We have been working systematically with CHQ to conduct a full audit of 341 diagnostic audiological test results conducted on babies who were referred after 1 January 2020.

"At this time, we have reviewed 91 cases with findings indicating eight infants require urgent follow up and we are contacting these families today.

"I’d like to make it clear that babies who did not require follow-up assessment at the hospital following their routine hearing screen at birth are not impacted. 

"Since 2020 there have been about 9,000 births at Townsville University Hospital with no concerns raised about routine newborn screening. The concerns relate to babies and children referred for follow-up diagnostic audiological testing."

Mr Keyes said the health service had also taken proactive steps to look at cochlear implant programming in children at Townsville University Hospital following recent cases in South Australia where cochlear implants have been mapped incorrectly.

"With support from CHQ, we are reviewing all children, who have received a cochlear implant at TUH or had their care managed by our hospital.

"Since we began this service in 2014, 59 children have received a cochlear implant.

"At this time we have reviewed the care for 31 patients and with findings raising concerns about six children.

"These families are also being contacted today.

"Reviewing the care delivered to these children is a complex task and must be done on a case-by-case basis.

"I’d like to assure families whose children have been fitted with cochlear implants that we are prioritising this review.

"If your child has been fitted with a cochlear implant and you have concerns about your child’s care, please phone 07 4433 7902."

Mr Keyes said the health service fully understood the implications this may have for these children.

"Our focus is now on the steps we need to take to support these children and their families," Mr Keyes said.

"I’d like to sincerely apologise for the distress and concern this has inevitably caused affected families.

"We have taken steps to ensure that the ongoing delivery of paediatric audiology services for north Queensland children has the highest levels of scrutiny and governance.

"This is being done with support from our expert colleagues at CHQ and the Townsville Hospital and Health Service Board’s safety and quality committee will be briefed on this matter later today.

"We have and always will be committed to doing our very best for north Queensland babies and young children in their critical formative years."

Families who have not been contacted directly but have concerns about their child’s care can contact 13HEALTH (13 43 25 84).

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