‘Scandal’ of more than one thousand children with hearing loss on a waiting list

The fact that almost 1,300 Galway children with hearing loss are on a waiting list for their first audiological assessment and review has been described as a “scandal” by a local politician.

Senator Fidelma Healy Eames says there has been no full-time audiological scientist in the area since 2002.

She claims the HSE has provided only a “limited and inadequate” service during this time using visiting qualified scientists for three to four sessions per month to assess the children.

“The current waiting list is for almost 1,300 deaf children who are waiting for their first assessment and review. Clearly, this is unacceptable.”

The Oranmore Fine Gael senator, who raised the issue in the Seanad on Tuesday night, said the HSE has tried to fill the position over the years but to no avail. The failure to fill the post is believed to be due to a shortage of suitably qualified candidates.

“The last time it was advertised was early 2009 and at that point four candidates were invited to interview. Two withdrew for personal reasons but two were waiting to be interviewed when the embargo on recruitment was implemented and their interviews were cancelled. Should an embargo have been applied in this case? I would say ‘No’.

“By November 2009, the HSE was unable to meet its commitment to provide even a locum service thus leaving the deaf children of Galway without any service for hearing tests, moulds or upgrading of hearing aids. Parents have had to source moulds and testing elsewhere in the country with great difficulty.

“In March 2010 parents of hearing impaired children in Galway re-formed a campaign to fight again for a service for their children. The parents felt it was important to stand up for their children’s rights. As parents they were in a position to know the services they needed for their children to help them develop socially and help develop their speech and language skills and give them access to a good education. In order for this to happen, children need to have full facilities provided by the HSE. They are entitled to a free audiological service until they are 18. The biggest stumbling block in the campaign for a better service is the continued lack of a senior audiological scientist in Galway.”

She said the HSE interviewed a candidate for the post earlier this week. “Has the HSE found a suitable candidate? If so, has he or she been ring-fenced for Galway which has been so neglected for a long time and which is now at crisis point given that nearly 1,300 children are waiting to be seen? It is a daunting task for one audiologist to try to diagnose and meet the ongoing treatment needs of 1,300 children. Without this very basic and essential service, deaf children are being further disabled by this State.”

Replying to Senator Healy Eames on behalf of the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Conor Lenihan said the HSE secured the services of two sessional audiological scientists to provide a limited service from August 2008 to November 2009 and from May 2010 to the present.

“Strenuous efforts have been made to appoint an audiological scientist to address the needs of hearing-impaired children under the age of five years. In spite of repeated attempts to recruit someone with the appropriate qualifications, the HSE has been unsuccessful due to a scarcity of suitably qualified candidates.

“The HSE is extremely conscious that the initial assessment and review of children is vital to ensure that they have the appropriate interventions and aids required for linguistic development and, as a consequence, improved social skills and educational capacity. The HSE has been granted a derogation from the public sector moratorium on recruitment in respect of this post and is at present in the process of recruiting a directly employed audiological scientist.”

Interviews for the post were held on December 13. Subject to a successful candidate being recommended the panel will take effect on December 20.

“In the best-case scenario it would take a few weeks to have the person in post. For example, a candidate from overseas may require a work permit, overseas police clearances and outside references. We are making progress on the matter and I hope a suitable person will be recommended by the interview panel.”


By Mary O’connor

Comedy looses a great contributor

Comedy lost one of its greatest contributors Sunday.

Leslie Nielsen, famous for his film roles in “Airplane!” and as Lt. Frank Drebin in “The Naked Gun” series, died from pneumonia complications at age 84. Known for starring in satirical films and his dry delivery of lines, Nielsen was among a rare breed of film comedians who were truly funny, something that can’t be said for many of today’s stars.

Anyone who has seen “Airplane!” might recall Nielsen’s response to the question, “Surely you can’t be serious?” with “I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley.” That line, in itself, is nothing particularly earth-shattering, but Nielsen’s spot-on comedic timing and delivery cemented it in the pantheon of cinematic funny moments.

How about his quips from “The Naked Gun” franchise? In “The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear,” Jane Spencer, played by Priscilla Presley, describes a suspect to Nielsen’s character as “a white guy. A moustache. About 6-foot-3,” to which Nielsen responds, “Awfully big moustache.”

There are numerous other quotes, soundbites and YouTube videos of classic Nielsen zingers, but as consumers of comedy films, we should all be remorseful we’ll never experience his brand of humor again. In today’s cinematic comedy climate of poop jokes and Will Ferrell, Nielsen’s style is not only one to be praised, but also one we should all miss.

And his talent didn’t stop at comedy.

Nielsen began his career starring in big-budget pictures, such as “Forbidden Planet” in 1956 and “The Poseidon Adventure” in 1972, cementing his status as a respected and serious actor, before tackling the now career-defining “Airplane!” in 1980.

From there, a career in classic satires led Roger Ebert to deem Nielsen “the Olivier of spoofs.”

And did you know Nielsen was legally deaf? How’s that for impressive? His eardrums were injured by the “deafening” combat noises heard during his World War II tour of duty as a tail gunner with the Royal Canadian Air Force. According to an interview in the National Enquirer (7/30/91) he would be completely “deaf” without his hearing devices.

So the next time you’re sitting in a movie theater watching second-rate comedies of wannabe frat guys getting stupidly drunk or Will Ferrell running around naked, take a second to remember Nielsen. He was one of film’s truest comedians, one who’s now sadly gone — and the genre will never be the same.

Sources / TV Acres & The Lantern