Studies indicate that close to 10 per cent of Aboriginal children have ear or hearing problems compared to just three per cent of non-Aboriginal children.
While many of us take our hearing for granted, a recent a statewide assessment by the NSW Rural Doctors Network (RDN) found many Aboriginal families have limited access to ear nose and throat services.
In an effort to address this problem, a number of Aboriginal children will today receive much-needed ear nose and throat (ENT) surgical procedures at Ballina District Hospital.
Today’s ENT clinic is the second such surgical clinic planned specifically for Aboriginal children and youth in the Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSW LHD) after six children from Ballina underwent surgery there earlier this month.
Dr Puneet Titoria from Lismore Base Hospital, who will be doing the surgery, has provided an outreach ENT consulting service at Bullinah Aboriginal Medical Service over the last year,
Dr Titoria said that providing the surgery as close as possible to where the kids live will ‘remove barriers to access for local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, including cost of travel and disruption to family life.’
Northern NSW LHD Chief Executive Wayne Jones said that until now, some children and their families in rural and regional NSW have had to travel long distances for ENT surgeries.
Bullinah AMS CEO Mark Moore added that ‘access to this surgery on country and closer to home will ensure better continuity of care and result in less economic and social stress for these families during treatment.’
Ms Marilyn Bailey, Clinical Services Manager at Bullinah AMS, said ‘we want to reduce the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people suffering avoidable hearing loss and give these children in northern NSW a better start to life,’ she said.
RDN CEO, Dr Ian Cameron said the program was ‘a fantastic example of multiple agencies working together to bring a rural medical service to this community in response to their need for ENT surgery.’
The new service is funded through the Australian Government’s ‘Healthy Ears, Better Hearing, Better Listening’ program.