Staff stood down amid probe of child audiology unit

Fraser Barton |

Two staff have been stood down at a Queensland hospital after a clinical review of its pediatric audiology services found the service was not meeting appropriate clinical standards.

A full audit of 341 infants born after January 1, 2020, is ongoing at Townsville Hospital, with a report expected in June.

Health service chief executive Kieran Keyes said the review was looking at the quality of some audiological services delivered to north Queensland babies and children.

“We are taking this step as we believe follow-up diagnostic audiological testing for babies who were referred for extra testing after their newborn hearing screen and programming of cochlear implants may not have met appropriate clinical standards,” he said on Thursday.

Mr Keyes said the review began following a pattern of “unexpected findings” by Children’s Health Queensland in December 2022 as it assessed babies who had been referred for further diagnostic audiological testing.

“‘At this time, we have reviewed 91 cases with findings indicating eight infants require urgent follow-up,” Mr Keyes said.

The hospital will also follow up children with cochlear implants after recent cases in South Australia showed implants had been mapped incorrectly.

Since 2014, the hospital service has issued 59 cochlear implants with the 31 patients under review and six children requiring urgent follow-ups.

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said the review was complex and would be done on a case-by-case basis.

“Families of affected children began being contacted yesterday and that process is ongoing,” she told parliament on Thursday.

“I want to assure families whose children have been fitted with cochlear implants that the health service is prioritising this investigation. 

“The health service has also taken steps to ensure that the ongoing delivery of pediatric audiology services for north Queensland children has the highest levels of scrutiny and governance.

“I can confirm two staff members have been stood down at this time while the investigation is conducted.”