Charity “shocked” at paediatric audiologists being redeployed to provide COVID testing

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The redeployment of paediatric audiologists to provide coronavirus testing could have “potentially significant consequences” for some Deaf children, a national charity has said.

Chime, the National Charity for Deafness and Hearing Loss, said it was “shocked” to learn that a significant number of HSE audiologists were redeployed in a number of counties.

The charity is particularly concerned about reports that paediatric audiologists are being redeployed in Galway, Mayo and Roscommon.

According to the charity, nationally the number of audiologists in the HSE is relatively low at approximately 70 posts.

Chime has learned that five of the nine Community Healthcare Organisation (CHO) areas have been affected.

CEO of Chime Mark Byrne said that the redeployment of audiologists is disproportionate, will add significantly to waiting lists, and will have lifelong consequences for some of the children affected.

“Communication for all children is vital for their development – and children who use hearing aids need regular appointments with their audiologist to ensure they have access to high quality sound to support their education and development,” he said.

“On behalf of the families, who Chime support, we are concerned about the impact caused by redeployment where no alternative service is available.”

Mark Byrne added that national guidance is needed to inform decisions that are balanced, consistent and have the least impact on the individual and their quality of life.

He said that pre-Covid-19 audiology services were already stretched with considerable waiting lists for adults in particular, and that while it is somewhat reassuring that in some CHO areas there has been no redeployment of audiologists, the redeployment in some areas is alarming.

The HSE has been contacted for comment.