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Update: Clinical review into paediatric audiology care continues

Published:  22 May 2023

A clinical review into paediatric audiology services (hearing) at the Townsville Hospital and Health Service (HHS) is continuing as experts carefully review each impacted child’s care.

Townsville Hospital and Health Service chief executive Kieran Keyes acknowledged the complex review was ‘taking time’ and said the health service had engaged audiologists from Children’s Health Queensland and Cochlear Australia to provide extra support including Saturday clinics.

"Reviewing the care delivered to these children is a complex task and must be done on a case-by-case basis given each patient has very individual circumstances and care requirements."

Mr Keyes said services being reviewed included follow-up care of newborns after hearing screens and programming of cochlear devices implanted after 1 January 2020.

"I can confirm all 59 children who had their cochlear implant mapped at TUH have now been reviewed with 14 requiring urgent recall," Mr Keyes said.

"Of these 14 children, six have had appointments, six are waiting to be seen and two are being supported to access care closer to their homes.

"I’d like to take this opportunity to reassure families the concerns we have only relate to the programming of their child’s implant and there have been no concerns identified about the surgical implantation or manufacturing of the device.

"The child should continue wearing their sound processor as usual."

Mr Keyes said the health service was continuing its review into the care of some babies referred to TUH’s audiology service after their newborn hearing screen.

"I can confirm of the 341 babies who required follow-up screening, 313 cases have now been reviewed with 244 not requiring any further follow up and 69 requiring an in-depth review," Mr Keyes said.

"Of the 69 in depth reviews, six children require no further follow up, 48 now require recall and 15 currently have their in-depth review underway.

"It’s expected the review of all 341 children will be completed by the end of May."

Mr Keyes said parents whose babies were born after January 2020 and required follow-up care after their newborn hearing screen who had not hear from the health service should call 07 4433 7902. 

"If you haven’t heard from us, it’s likely we have been trying to reach you on the contact details provided at the time of your appointment," he said. 

"If your baby did not require follow-up care, there is no reason for concern, and we do not need to speak with you."

Mr Keyes said he acknowledged the impact the situation has had on families waiting further information. 

"While I cannot provide specifics about the outcomes of each review, I can confirm we have begun seeing patients from both groups who require follow-up care," Mr Keyes said. 

"Follow-up screening appointments require a longer appointment (at least two hours per patient) as well as the expertise of two audiology experts.

"Our teams are working hard to deliver the care required as quickly as possible while also continuing to see day-to-day audiology patients." 

Mr Keyes said the additional audiology support would commence from Monday 22 May. 

"Where suitable, we are also scheduling Saturday clinical times for our patients." 

Mr Keyes said he thanked families for their ongoing patience. 

"I know this is a difficult time, but I would like to reassure every family that we are continuing to make this clinical review our priority," Mr Keyes said.

"Our focus remains on patient safety and ensuring that all those affected are provided with the care they need as quickly as possible." 

If you would like to clarify information or raise concerns about your child’s hearing, phone 4433 7902.


Investigation panel update:

Mr Keyes said he also wanted to take the opportunity to advise a five-person expert panel had been formed to investigate audiology services, including systems, performance, and governance, at TUH.

"The independent panel will look at the clinical systems and processes in audiology services at our hospital to provide recommendations and advice that will guide our service in the future," he said. 

"The terms of reference have been agreed and panel members include experts in audiology and clinical governance as well as a consumer representative. 

"The provision of safe, quality care is our commitment to our community,” he said.

Mr Keyes said the investigation would start in the coming weeks and was expected to take about four months to complete.

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