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16 Cape York patients receive vital ear surgery

9 July 2018

Sixteen Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients from Cape York had life-changing hearing health surgery earlier recently thanks to a new ear, nose and throat program currently under way.

The program is a partnership between CheckUP, the Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service, the Clinical Excellence Division of Queensland Health and ENT surgeon Dr Tuan Pham from the John James Foundation.

It is jointly funded by the Torres and Cape HHS, Clinical Excellence Division and CheckUP.

The day surgery procedures took place in Weipa and the patients are expected to experience almost immediate  improvement with their hearing, speaking and learning.

The 16 patients were referred for surgery out of a cohort of 90 patients who underwent audiology assessments at specialist outpatient clinics in Cooktown, Weipa and Lockhart River in May and early June.

Torres and Cape HHS Senior Health Promotion Officer Ear (South) Denise Newman said the ENT surgery initiative was a significant collaboration benefiting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

"We know that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are disproportionately affected by hearing issues and that prevention and treatment really has the power to change lives,’’ she said.

"We are very proud to be involved in the coordination of this program to help address the hearing health of these patients."

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children experience some of the highest levels of ear disease and hearing loss in the world, with rates up to 10 times more than those for non-Indigenous Australians.

The impact of hearing impairment or loss in young children is considerable with their speech, ability to learn and social interactions all affected.

Untreated hearing issues can lead to disengagement from education and employment, leading to a lifetime of disadvantage.

CheckUP CEO Ann Maree Liddy said the surgery would be a game changer for the young recipients.

"This round of ear surgery for these young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from Cape York means they will be better able to listen, learn, and engage with their family, teachers and peers,’’ she said.

"Thirty minutes of surgery is giving them the opportunity to have a more productive, healthier, happier future than they may have had otherwise.

"The collective vision for all the organisations involved is that all Queensland children should have timely access to treatment of this kind."

"We know from previous rounds, the impact on these children’s lives is swift and remarkable. We are planning on more surgery rounds in the future, so we can assist more children who have been experiencing long-term hearing issues."

Following surgery, the smiles on the children’s faces are clear signs that the surgery is life-changing for these children.

As one of the children from the previous round of surgery said, "I can hear clearly now!".

PHOTO CAPTION: Patients and parents prepare to board the aircraft on their way to Weipa for the surgery.

Last updated: 18 July 2018