The Health Service Executive has said that almost 50 families affected by serious failings in audiology services provided to children in the west of the country have been given copies of an audit examining the care they received.
Yesterday, RTÉ Investigates revealed details of a look-back review carried out by the HSE between 2011 and 2015 as a result of concerns around the quality of paediatric audiology services provided in almost 1,000 cases in counties Mayo and Roscommon, leaving some children with lifelong impairments.
The review focused on the work of one individual, an audiologist who worked in the area over a ten-year period from the early 2000s providing services to young children.
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The review reveals that, such were the safety concerns that arose during the preliminary assessment phase of the audit, the audiologist in question was immediately suspended and contingency measures were put in place including redeploying audiologists from Galway to Mayo/Roscommon.
Of the 49 children affected, 13 were discharged from the system but were taken back to be retested and found to have suffered additional hearing loss.
However, the report shows the majority of these children suffered what the HSE refers to as major harm - in that they had insufficient review appointments, or none at all, and were not referred for the cochlear implants they needed.
These failings impacted on the children in several ways including on their speech and language development, their academic ability and their behavioural and social skills.
Of the children with hearing aids who were rechecked, it was found that every single child was impacted in some way and to varying degrees.
But one of the key issues arising from the report is the lack of proper documentation and record keeping across the board.
The audit team found…
- Incomplete files that did not contain important diagnostic information.
- Risk factors and client histories were not recorded properly.
- Referrals did not comply to normal standards.
RTÉ Investigates also understands that a number of professionals working in the Mayo/Roscommon area have concerns that, given the level of poor record keeping identified in the report, there may be other children who have not yet been recalled.
In its statement this evening, the HSE said: "Community Healthcare West can confirm that the families of the 49 children affected have all been issued with the Review Report into Community Paediatric Audiology Services in Mayo/Roscommon between April 2011 and February 2015."
It said it is important to note that the 49 children affected were prioritised and have received treatment or are in treatment.
It reiterated its sincere apology to those affected and acknowledged the anxiety that this has caused to the children and their families.
The HSE said that parents of the children affected have been invited to meet a senior manager and a senior audiologist from next week to discuss the findings of the report and be updated on their child's care.
It confirmed the audiologist in question no longer works in the audiology service.
It said the National Audiology Review Group Report was completed in 2011 and recommendations were made, which are being implemented across the country.
The HSE added that the review issued today contains a number of recommendations, many of which have already been implemented.