Health Ministry not listening

Experts, MKs protest cancelation of free hearing tests for infants.

Health Ministry 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Health Ministry 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Health Ministry’s recent decision to cancel free hearing tests for infants between the age of seven and nine months aroused opposition from the Knesset Labor, Social Welfare and Health Committee on Tuesday.
Dr. Yitzhak Kadman, head of the Israel Council for the Child, stated that the ministry’s decision was “unbelievable economic stupidity” because the cost of screening compared to the potential harm to children was negligible.
Haya Levy, head of the Audiology, Language, Speech and Hearing Disorders Institute at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem, added that the ministry “made the decision on its own, without consulting the relevant authorities.”
The committee, headed by acting chairman MK Ilan Gilon, was holding a special session to mark National Hearing Day and as a result of the sudden ministry decision.
Dr. Lisa Rubin, head of the ministry’s mother and child health department, said that since January 2010, it began to pay for all newborns in obstetrics departments to undergo hearing tests before their discharge.
Later it decided to cancel the audiology checkup for older infants “because we found it was not effective and only put more burdens on the health system. The fact is that no other country in the world performs them then. Even if I had unlimited financial means, I wouldn’t do such a checkup,” Rubin insisted.
Gilon stated that the financial cost was “insignificant” and that the importance of identifying hearing problems as early as possible is overwhelming.
MK Orly Levy said that hearing tests in older newborns can point to additional developmental and communications problems, including autism. “These tests save much money in the long term.”
Dr. Mordechai Himmelfarb of the Israel Medical Association added that “almost a third of children who suffer from profound deafness passed the test after birth. Thus there is no doubt that there is a need to screen babies’ hearing before their first birthday.”
Gilon concluded by saying that “Israel is not a business.
The committee demands the restoration of screening tests between the ages of seven and nine months.”