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September 1, 2003

Carr deaf to implant funds plea

From: Daily Telegraph, Australia - Sept 1, 2003


THE Carr Government is ignoring the plight of deaf adults with funding for the curable disease unchanged for more than 15 years.

Waiting lists for Cochlear implants for adults now stretch into 2006 and are growing annually with higher rates of disease and workplace noise pollution.

But the Lane Cove-based Cochlear Centre said waiting lists could be wiped out forever with a one-off government grant.

Centre director Professor Peter Gibson has slammed both the state and federal governments for ignoring the issue.

He said Cochlear implants, a reknowed Australian invention, were being purchased by governments around the world but in their home state of NSW it was not a vote winner so has been ignored.

The State Government supported only 10 adult implants a year, a number that has not changed since 1987 when implants began.

Prof Gibson said he had asked NSW Health Minister Morris Iemma for help but he had "switched off".

Mr Iemma's office has declined repeated requests from The Daily Telegraph for a comment.

"It really is grossly inhumane and neither the NSW nor the Federal Government wants to know about it," Prof Gibson said.

"It is heart breaking when people, a wife or husband, come in here and write down on bits of paper they need an implant. They can't use sign language because they have gone deaf in adult life and it's a pathetic sight.

"It's all very well to sell the product overseas but people back here in the so called lucky country are facing hardship and heartbreak."

A Cochlear implant costs $20,000 but of the 90 people who seek the implant a year, 60 are not covered by private health insurance, veterans' affairs pensions or workers' compensation provisions.

He said he knew of cases of depression and suicide because of the waiting list.

"I was told there was no more funding but what governments don't realise, it costs them more if people lose their hearing and have to quit work and go on a pension and get a carer, etc," he said, adding a one-off payment of $500,000 would wipe out waiting lists for all time.

Copyright 2003 Nationwide News