Sask. doctors call on province to keep funding Hearing Aid Plan for all
Group says cuts to plan leave children especially vulnerable to service gaps
More than a dozen pediatricians and pediatric specialists are calling on the Saskatchewan government to keep funding the province's Hearing Aid Plan for all users, instead of scrapping it for all but low-income residents come July 1.
NDP MLAs tabled a letter Wednesday in the Saskatchewan legislature from 18 doctors warning against the government's plan, which will eliminate coverage of audiological evaluation and subsidized hearing aids and forces people to turn to private clinics for those services.
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"Closure of the Hearing Aid Plan will disrupt the surveillance and intervention components of the already very limited screening services that Saskatchewan presently has in place," read the letter addressed to Health Minister Jim Reiter.
"Early hearing programs are only effective if all components are universally accessible and in place — from screening to diagnosis to intervention."
The doctors cited a number of groups they believe will be most affected by the cuts:
- Infants from 0 to six months of age with confirmed hearing loss
- Children eight months to five years of age requiring surveillance for hearing loss even if their hearing is normal at birth
- Infants and children with complex medical needs
- Developmentally challenged pediatric patients who require hearing aids and ongoing evaluation
'It's unbelievably frustrating'
A number of concerned parents were in attendance at the legislature Wednesday.
Tabitha Clayson, whose son Finnegan uses a hearing aid, was among them.
"In Regina I believe there's only two audiology clinics that have audiologists that would even see my son out of all of the audiology clinics, whereas before we were just able to go and it's unbelievably frustrating to not be able to access services that he needs," she said.
The Saskatchewan government says it will make sure there are enough private audiologists in place to meet the demand.
"We need to make sure that there's enough private audiologists in place that they can meet the demand," said Reiter. "If that's not the case, we're gonna take a look at what we're doing."
The government announced it was making the changes to the Hearing Aid Plan in order to save $3 million.
with files from Micki Cowan