End of mobile ear clinic service for WA schools

Earbus Screeners Tania Harris and Jane Matthews, nurse Karen Thomas and Armadale MLA Tony Buti.Picture: Jon Hewson        www.communitypix.com.au   d447362
Earbus Screeners Tania Harris and Jane Matthews, nurse Karen Thomas and Armadale MLA Tony Buti.Picture: Jon Hewson        www.communitypix.com.au d447362

MOBILE ear clinics that provide vital ear health screening to children will no longer visit schools in the Perth metropolitan, South- West and Pilbara regions of WA.

Child and Adolescent Community Health, run by the Health Department, will end its service agreement with Telethon Speech and Hearing (TSH) on December 31.

TSH runs the Ear Health Program – Mobile Ear Clinics – which sends modified buses to a network of primary schools, kindergartens and child care centres in the Perth metropolitan, South-West and Pilbara regions of WA.

The ear bus clinics provide a free hearing and middle ear health screening service for indigenous Australian children who are at risk of middle ear problems. It also provides education on good ear hygiene.

Armadale MLA Dr Tony Buti said the mobile clinics were a cost effective service for schools and the wider community, which had been well used over the years.

“The initiative effectively allows for ongoing monitoring and interventions for students with hearing issues,” he said.

“Many of the schools in the Armadale area have high levels of Aboriginal students – some as high as 25 per cent. It is these students who are most prone to ear infections and the associated hearing and learning problems.

“If parents are required to take their children off site and make appointments to have their ears checked many would fall through the cracks and their academic progress would be further affected.”

A Child and Adolescent Community Health spokesperson confirmed the service agreements with TSH was due to expire in December, following multiple extensions.

But a new program run by CACH would take over from the service currently provided by TSH.

“The new program starting from term one 2016 will deliver ear health services using existing and new positions within Child and Adolescent Community Health (CACH).

“A comprehensive review of the provision of the ear health program identified that the same services could be delivered internally at a reduced cost via existing school health services and new dedicated ear health staff.”

The spokesperson said ear health services would be delivered by school nurses and an ear health team co-ordinated by CACH. Mobile ear clinics would not be used.

“Services will be provided to all the metropolitan schools, which have a significant number of Aboriginal children, and also to a large proportion of those metropolitan children who are currently hard to reach.