Enough is enough! The public voices its support for a Universal Newborn Hearing-Screening Program in Québec

Québec Coalition for Universal Newborn Hearing Screening
calls on the minister of health to fund such a program now!

Montreal, June 17, 2008 –Thanks to a petition and letter writing campaign, 1000s of individuals, organizations, foundations and associations have been able to voice their opinion and say:  Yes!  We support the creation of a universal newborn hearing-screening (UNHS) program in Québec.  

Hearing loss is the most common birth defect affecting 1 to 3 of every 1000 newborns. Yet in Québec, newborns don’t have their hearing tested.  Early detection and treatment of hearing loss makes an enormous difference in the lives of the hearing impaired. This is why most Canadian provinces already have universal newborn hearing-screening programs. That’s why Poland has a universal newborn hearing-screening program. That’s why Estonia has a universal newborn hearing-screening program.

When an infant’s hearing loss is detected late, the hearing impairment could lead not only to an inability to communicate using speech, but could also lead to developmental delay that will impact on the child's ability to learn and to become a productive and happy citizen. In the end, this will end up costing society as the child will require special education and may need income support due to poor employability.

In February, L’Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ) published a 200-page report, which strongly recommends that a UNHS program be launched without delay.  This report, which ironically, was commissioned by the Minister of health, was written by a taskforce of experts in the field of hearing loss. They studied the issue for more than three years before making their recommendations. The report is so thorough it is a virtual blueprint: explaining why a universal hearing screening program is essential; estimating the cost of such a program; explaining the infrastructure that has to be put in place and the staff that needs to be hired.

The government’s apparent reluctance to implement the recommendations made in this report, and the public’s support for a UNHS program have triggered unprecedented collaboration amongst advocates for children, resulting in the creation of the Quebec Coalition for Universal Newborn Hearing Screening.

Parents, children, health professionals and groups, organizations and associations representing the hearing impaired have joined forces to encourage the Québec government to follow the recommendations of its expert taskforce and to respect the UN Rights of the Child.

“On behalf of its members, l’Association des Pédiatres du Québec strongly supports the recommendations of l'Institut de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ) with regards to universal newborn hearing screening and the implementation of such a program in Québec,” says Dr. Thérèse Côté-Boileau, president of the l’Association des Pédiatres du Québec.

“Enough is enough,” says Dr. Hema Patel, a pediatrician at The Montreal Children’s Hospital of the MUHC and mother of a child born with profound hearing loss. “We need to act now, because if we don’t children born with hearing loss may never learn to speak. By failing to implement a universal newborn hearing-screening program, we are effectively contravening the United Nations declaration on the Rights of the Child.”

Ms. Hurteau, an audiologist and a member of the INSPQ taskforce says:  “Detecting hearing loss in a newborn is fast, easy and inexpensive.  Rehabilitation measures are efficient.  Children with a hearing loss who are diagnosed within their first months of life and who receive timely rehabilitation are learning to hear, speak and communicate normally.  With an investment of five-million dollars annually, a universal newborn hearing screening program would save taxpayers 1.6 millions dollars annually. Financially is just makes sense.”

 “The Coalition wants to work with Dr. Couillard, the Minister of Health to launch a UNHS program. Together we can make a difference,” says Mr. Claudio Bussandri, a profoundly deaf businessman and Chairman of the Québec Coalition for Universal Newborn Hearing Screening. “Hearing impaired children will reach their full potential and take their rightful place in Quebec society.”

For more information please call:
Lisa Dutton
514 412-4307