Board calls tenders for newborn post-screening service

Southern babies who need extra hearing testing after initial screening are being seen by an audiologist from the Northland District Health Board, but tenders are being called for this service.

Free hearing screening began for newborn babies in Otago and Southland in July, part of a nationwide programme designed to pick up hearing loss and enable interventions to be made before development is affected.

Dedicated hearing screeners based in Dunedin and Invercargill carry out the initial tests, and the Southern board pays for an audiologist from Northland to see follow-up cases at Dunedin or Southland Hospital.

This week, the board called tenders for the follow-up service, which it expects will see 52 babies a year in Otago and 28 from Southland.

It estimates three to five children a year will be identified with a permanent hearing impairment.

The board's request for proposal (RFP) documents show the service provider would also be required to offer general audiological services for adults and children in the Otago area.

It is estimated that the combination of new-born testing follow-up and the other work would take about 30 hours a week in Otago, with the Southland portion taking 12 hours.

The tenders close on November 15, and it is hoped that a contract will be awarded in early December ready for the successful service provider to begin in mid-January.

In an email response to the Otago Daily Times' questions, board screening co-ordinator Rachel Simpson said audiologists working with babies were expected to follow the Universal Newborn Hearing and Screening and Early Intervention Programme protocols for audiology assessments and habilitation.

The Ministry of Health had funded the University of Canterbury to provide extra training for those working with babies.

Where additional training was required, the ministry would work closely with district health boards.

Mrs Simpson said the Northland woman working in the area was a programme-approved audiologist.

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