Families left in the dark as Labor fails to raise alarm over cochlear implant issues

Tuesday 21 March 2023

The Opposition is calling on the Malinauskas Labor Government to write to and engage with all families who received cochlear implant care at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital over the past decade.

All these families deserve correspondence from the Government advising them of the shocking programming errors that occurred at the hospital’s Audiology Unit and that they now have choice and control over who their child sees for ongoing cochlear implant programming and management.

It comes as more heartbreaking stories of South Australian children who have experienced issues with their cochlear implants come to light – with families contacting the Opposition saying they’ve feared their children were not hearing properly after their implants were programmed at the WCH, but have received no contact from the Hospital or the Government about the programming issues.

Parents of children with cochlear implants are also saying they were unaware of recent changes to Medicare that supports families in accessing a second opinion for their child’s cochlear implant programming.

On 1 March, Medicare introduced item numbers specifically for the programming of cochlear implants. It means families now have choice and control over who they see for ongoing cochlear implant programming and management and do not require a referral.

Leader of the Opposition David Speirs said it’s unacceptable that families of these hearing-impaired children have been left in the dark.

“These families’ stories are absolutely heartbreaking and the very least Peter Malinauskas and Chris Picton could have done is make them aware that there is an issue,” Mr Speirs said.

“The Malinauskas Labor Government was first alerted there could be a systemic problem with the programming of cochlear impacts at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital almost a year ago – that is precious time these children could have used to undergo reprogramming and work on their listening and speaking skills – but now that time has been lost.

“We have very real concerns there are many, many more families out there that don’t even know their child could be impacted by this.

“It is crucial that Peter Malinauskas does the right thing and lets all families who received cochlear implant programming at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital know about what has gone so terribly wrong here.”

Shadow Minister for Health Ashton Hurn said the Malinauskas Labor Government must contact all families as a matter of urgency.

“I have been on the phone with families who are completely devastated by this news and who have been blaming themselves because their children have been falling behind,” Mrs Hurn said.

“While there is a sense of relief their instincts about their children’s cochlear implants could have been right – that their child couldn’t hear sounds properly – they should have been alerted to this by the Malinauskas Labor Government a long time ago.

“Peter Malinauskas and Chris Picton had to be dragged to launch an independent review into this very serious issue. I hope they show a sense of urgency when it comes to contacting all families who received cochlear implants at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital.”