€300k payout for deaf teen

A 17-year-old who claimed his profound hearing loss was not picked up until he was more than three years of age has settled an action for damages over the alleged delay for €300,000.

Liam Burke Castlemaine, Co Kerry, through his mother Mary Burke, sued the HSE and Patricia Heffernan, a senior audiologist with the National Rehabilitation Board, now the HSE Hearing Service, and operating out of Kerry General Hospital, Tralee.

It was claimed that Liam was profoundly deaf and had profound inner hearing loss from birth. The appropriate management to minimise any long-term handicap, it was claimed, would have been for Liam to have had his profound deafness confirmed after failing his screening distinction tests, and to have been referred for cochlear implant.

It was claimed that Liam was misdiagnosed as having a milder hearing loss due to glue ear and had three sets of grommets inserted, none of which significantly reduced his disability or handicap.

The true cause of severity of Liam’s hearing loss was not suspected until he was over three years of age, and was not confirmed until three years and nine months.

It was claimed that Liam’s care by Ms Heffernan and the body now called the HSE Hearing Service fell below an acceptable standard in that Liam’s profound hearing loss was not recognised by Ms Heffernan.

Mr Justice Kevin Cross was told the settlement was without admission of liability.

If you have any hearing loss issues contact Hidden Hearing online or Freephone 1800 370 000.

HSE announce massive cuts

Medical card patients will no longer get anti-obesity drugs free of charge, home help hours will be cut and there will be a big reduction in agency staff and overtime spending under a package of HSE measures aimed at saving €130 million this year.

The HSE has admitted that the savings will have some impact on service delivery to patients. Health unions have already warned that the agency and overtime spend cuts will directly hit patient care, as it will reduce the number of staff available for frontline services.

The health executive has announced a range of measures aimed at cutting back €130 million of its current €259 million deficit. The balance of the deficit, it says will be made up by measures such as the speeding up of payments from health insurers for private beds in public hospitals and the transfer of some surplus money from areas such as the National Treatment Purchase Fund.

As part of the cuts package, the HSE will no longer cover the anti-obesity drug Orlistat under the medical card scheme, so patients who formerly got this on prescription for free will have to pay for it in future. This is the only prescription anti-obesity drug currently available.

The other drugs cut from the medical card scheme are glucosamine, a dietary supplement believed to protect against arthritis, and Omega-3-triglycerides which are used to protect against heart disease. The HSE will save €6 million from this measure, which will affect 50,000 patients currently receiving these products free of charge.

The HSE says in deciding on savings measures in this area it had felt that these products were less cost effective than others and there was less robust evidence on their efficacy. It had removed them to ensure that funds continued to be available for treatments with clear patient benefits.

Officials at a press briefing said targets for cuts in agency and overtime set out in the HSE service plan at the start of the year had not yet been met. There will be a 50% cut in agency spend and a 10% cut in overtime.

Home help hours are to be cut back by a further 600,000 hours, following a cut of 500,000 made earlier this year, while home care packages will be reduced by 200 per month.

The HSE admitted that this may increase the number of ‘delayed discharge’ elderly patients in acute hospital beds.

Other savings measures include better cash and stock management and savings in medical equipment. The HSE is looking at reducing its €100 million a year energy bill, including cutting back on unnecessary lighting and heat.

The HSE admitted that while cutback measures have been in place since the beginning of this year, there had been an increasing demand for hospital and other services over the past eight months which had increased its deficit, which was heading for €500 million at the end of the year.

Because of this, it had been necessary to implement additional savings measures, which would continue into 2013, the HSE said.

HSE officials admitted today that some of the savings the HSE had hoped to achieve had progressed much more slowly than had been hoped for in its service plan at the start of the year.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation said the new range of cuts would jeopardise patient safety.

General Secretary Liam Doran told RTÉ News the savings could be achieved without affecting patients if the Government went ahead with its plan for greater generic drug prescribing and charging private patients for public beds.

The HSE has admitted, however, that as these initiatives required legislation and would take some time to implement, they cannot be used to cut its deficit this year. The two items were, however, included in January as projected sources of income in the 2012 HSE service plan, which was approved by Health Minister James Reilly.

Further bed cuts and theatre curtailments are expected to be announced by hospitals around the country in the coming weeks as they attempt to reduce their deficits and implement the agency and overtime cuts.

The HSE has said that while there would be no cuts in overtime rates of pay, as this would breach the current terms of Croke Park, it planned to cut the overall spend on overtime by having fewer staff doing overtime, and on agency staff numbers.

It said previously announced plans to get staff to work more flexibly, including working extra hours, had been shelved until next year.

The HSE said local health managers were developing implementation plans for the cutbacks. Already, bed closures and agency and overtime cuts have been announced in the north-east.

Meanwhile the HSE said today no policy decision had yet been taken on changing medical card eligibility. However, the matter was under review with the Department of Health.

It has been speculated that measures such as means testing for over 70s medical cards may be introduced in the Budget at the behest of the ‘Troika’.

If you have any questions about hearing loss or  benefits and the PRSI grant scheme contact Hidden Hearing.


Finding it hard to conceive my second child


 A series of articles by various writers on medical topics this one is by Edel Rooney.

Finding it hard to conceive my second child

I have a one-year-old boy and we have been trying to conceive number two for nine months. I am getting a bit worried now because it’s taking so long.  We would like them to be close in age. Have you any tips on trying to conceive? We are both finding it hard to relax because of the strain of this.

Although ‘Irish Twins’ are still very common, doctors recommend that the minimum advisable amount of time between pregnancies is about one year, so you are just at that point now. Remember, your body needs time to recover after pregnancy and build back up its strength. Though mentally you may be ready for number two, physically you may not be. Nature knows best!
Try to get away for a few days with your husband and child, perhaps get some romance back in your life and try to forget about your attempts to get pregnant for a while.  This may help you relax. Should you not be successful in getting pregnant by the start of spring, perhaps pay a visit to your GP/obstetrician/gynaecologist to seek advice.

But, in most cases, once people relax and forget about the issue, and spend a bit of time together, conception happens naturally.
There are some steps you can think about that can improve your conception prospects. Take a supplement of folic acid (400 micrograms per day). Stop smoking if you are a smoker and make sure you and your partner are eating a healthy diet. Avoid or cut down on your alcohol intake.  All of this applies to your partner too.
You could also avoid those high risk foods not advised in pregnancy, so that you are already taking the best care of yourself once you do become pregnant.

Being overweight or underweight will make it more difficult for you to conceive. Of course, lots of overweight people do conceive without losing weight, but even dropping 10 per cent of your body weight can help. Excess weight affects hormone production, which can affect a woman’s ability to ovulate and get pregnant.

Of course, if there is an underlying issue hindering your conception attempts, it’s just as likely to be related to your partner’s fertility. He should eat and drink properly and perhaps try a vitamin supplement such as Wellman tablets.

Needless to say, you should get to know your own cycle as well as possible. Many women exhibit symptoms such as tender breasts, abdominal pain and increased libido during ovulation, so be aware of the telltale signs. You can also purchase an ovulation testing kit although be careful this doesn’t but extra pressure on you and your partner.

When pregnancy does not arrive as quickly as you hope, trying to conceive can easily become stressful and worrisome for couples.

In many ways it can be even more stressful the second time round, as you might have the expectation that you can have children easily and people may not be as empathetic or understanding of your concerns as they know that you have one child already.

But of course that does not take away from the anxiety you are feeling and having one child may even increase your hopes to have a second so that your children are close in age.
As well as maintaining a healthy lifestyle and taking plenty of exercise, it may be worth looking into complementary therapies such as acupuncture. Not only may this help with relaxation, it can actually boost your prospects of conceiving. But you should always discuss and course of treatment with your doctor first.
What you should also realise is that you are not alone. Many couples take time to have their second child but the child eventually arrives.

Is my noisy workplace dangerous?

 A series of articles by various writers on medical topics this one is by Edel Rooney.

I’ve begun a new job where there is a lot of background news. I’m concerned the ongoing exposure to this will damage my hearing in the long term. What are the risks?

Today, noise problems in the workplace can still cause deafness in developing countries, or in those without regulations. However, Europe, the USA and Australia have stringent rules about just how much noise workers can be exposed to so they are  protected from hearing damage.

Agreed regulations have set the danger level for noise at 85 decibels. Exposure to sound that is louder than this is known to cause permanent hearing damage. The louder the sound, the less time required to cause problems. Being close to a very loud explosion can instantly damage hearing. Health and Safety experts advise people should not be exposed to noise over 105 decibels for longer than two minutes at a time.

Temporary deafness is often experienced after leaving a noisy place. Although hearing recovers within a few hours, this condition should not be ignored as it is a sign that continued or regular exposure to such noise could gradually cause permanent damage.

Exposure to noise may also cause tinnitus, which is a sensation of noises (such as ringing or buzzing) in the ears. This can occur in combination with hearing loss. Rinnitus is surprisingly common, with around 18% of the population suffering from it at some stage in their lives. The condition can vary in severity and even though most people have a relatively mild form, it can have a big impact on their quality of life.

Aside from workplace noise, hearing impairment or discomfort can usually be avoided by employing a few basic hygiene guidelines and some common sense.

Few people probably realise that they are unintentionally damaging their hearing just by listening to an mp3 player or iPod through earphones at high volume. A recent study by scientists looking at emerging health risks in Europe concluded that using earphones and playing loud music every day for five years could cause permanent and irreversible hearing problems.

Damage to your ears caused by water can be avoided or minimised by remembering a few simple rules. Try to avoid unnecessary submersion under water such as when bathing, showering or swimming.

If you are a keen traveller, remember to suck a boiled sweet when tasking off or landing to help open the Eustachian tube in your ear, therefore helping to prevent the feeling of ‘popping’ and any associated discomfort. This can even prevent perforation of the eardrum as it tries to adjust to changes in pressure.

If you have had, or are currently suffering, from a head cold before flying, try taking some decongestant medication for a few days leading up to the flight as this will also help to clear and unblock the Eustachian tube.

It cannot be stressed enough that ears are, on the whole, self- cleaning and do not require any assistance in removing wax. It is old-fashioned practice to use a cotton bud, hair grip or any other device to clean the inside of your ears. Wax should be naturally excreted from your ears, but if you feel you have a build-up of wax, see your GP in order to have this officially diagnosed, treated and to determine any underlying cause for the build-up.

Acting fast on stroke symptoms

 A series of articles by various writers on medical topics this one is by Edel Rooney.

My 82-year-old mother has a history of stroke in her family.  Since she lives alone I worry about her.  What are the symptoms of stroke?  

You may be familiar with the traditional stroke symptoms: numbness or weakness on one side of the body, trouble talking, loss of vision or coordination problems.  However, women may be susceptible to less common symptoms.

It is important to recognise stroke symptoms and act quickly. The National Stroke Association in America lists the common stroke symptoms in both men and women as:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg – especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause

In addition, women may report unique stroke symptoms including:

  • sudden face and limb pain
  • sudden hiccups
  • sudden nausea
  • sudden general weakness
  • sudden chest pain
  • sudden shortness of breath
  • sudden palpitations

Researchers do not know why women’s symptoms are different.

Every minute counts for stroke patients and acting F.A.S.T. can lead patients to the stroke treatments they desperately need.  The most effective stroke treatments are only available if the stroke is recognised and diagnosed within the first three hours of the first symptoms. Make sure everyone involved in assisting for your mother knows the F.A.S.T. stroke diagnosis check-list:

Face – Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?

Arms –            Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

Speech – Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Are the words slurred? Can s/he repeat the sentence correctly?

Time – If the person shows any of these symptoms time is important. Call 112 or 999 or get to the hospital quickly. Brain cells are dying.

If you’re worried that your mother is at risk, please ask her to see her doctor.  Then, why not arrange for a caregiving companion to assist her at home and serve as a second set of eyes for you?

Where are my health entitlements?

A series of articles by various writers on medical topics this one is by Edel Rooney.

I recently moved to Ireland from Poland and I can’t yet afford to pay for health insurance. Can you tell me what my health entitlements are or let me know what I might have to pay if I become ill here?


Everyone, regardless of nationality, who is ordinarily resident in Ireland is entitled to free treatment in public beds in Health Service Executive (HSE) hospitals and voluntary hospitals. Certain visitors to Ireland are also eligible. Some people may have to pay some hospital charges but holders of medical cards are exempt. To find out if you are entitled to a medical card, ask for an application at your Local Health Office.

A medical card will also cover visits to your local GP, which otherwise will cost approximately €60.

Accident and Emergency

If you attend the accident and emergency or casualty department of a public

hospital without being referred there by a GP, you will be charged €100. There is no charge if you have been referred. Medical card holders, people with diagnosed infectious diseases and women receiving maternity treatment are also exempt from this charge. The HSE has the discretion to reduce or waive all charges entirely in cases of hardship.

If you have to return to the A&E again in relation to the same injury or illness, you shouldn’t have to pay the charge again.

In-patient services

If you are admitted to hospital under the care of a consultant, the overnight charge is €75 per day up to a maximum of €750 in any 12-month period.

If you have been an in-patient for more than 30 days within the previous 12 months, you will be liable for long-stay charges. The maximum charge for anyone in public long-stay care is €153.25 per week. If you are in hospital for more than 30 days and a doctor certifies that you do not need medically acute care and treatment you may be charged as if you were receiving long-term residential care services.


Approved prescribed drugs and medicines are free of charge for medical card holders and people with Hepatitis C who have Health Amendment Act Cards. People with certain long-term illnesses may also get approved prescribed drugs and medicines for those illnesses free of charge.

Under the Drugs Payment Scheme, individuals or families who are registered with their Local Health Office pay only a maximum of €120 per calendar month for approved prescribed drugs and medicines.

Maternity services

Any expectant mother ordinarily resident in Ireland is entitled to a free programme of care provided by a combination of your chosen GP and a hospital obstetrician.

The GP provides an initial examination, if possible before 12 weeks, and a further six examinations during the pregnancy. These are alternated with visits to the maternity hospital. If you have a significant illness such as diabetes or hypertension, you may have up to five additional visits to the GP.

After the birth, the GP will examine the baby at two weeks and both mother and baby at six weeks.

The mother is entitled to free in-patient and out-patient public hospital services during the birth and is not liable for any of the hospital charges.