We must stop the Pallister government from implementing the KPMG proposed cuts to children's hearing aids, bone-anchored hearing implant processors and FM transmitters.
The Phase II report from KPMG on the Health System Sustainability and Innovation Review makes a recommendation that the government decrease the level of provincial support for children's hearing aids, for bone-implant processors and FM transmitters. These are devices which are very important for enabling children with hearing difficulties to hear. We have recently (2016) finally achieved universal newborn hearing screening after many years of advocating for this. It is essential that children who are identified at birth as hearing deficient have the support for enable them to hear as good as they can hear with the support of hearing aids and Cochlear implants. When children have a hearing deficiency, they have difficulty hearing and this translates into difficulties learning and often to behavioural and other problems down the road. We need to ensure that these children are enabled to do well. The provincial government should definitely not reduce support for this program. Any costs which are saved will just result in more provincial health, education, child welfare and justice costs down the road. Please email the Minister of Health to support this program and stop it from being cut. I raised this issue in the Manitoba Legislature on Thursday June 21. It appears the Minister has not yet made a final decision, and that if there are enough people writing in to him, the program can be saved. Thank you for helping. The Minister of Health, Senior's and Active Living email is email@example.com
Mr. Gerrard: One of the parts that was on the KPMG report that has been raising concerns and people have been communicating with me about is the cutbacks that are suggested, and I will list one of them. This is in personal audiology equipment, specifically children's hearing aids, bone-anchored hearing‑implant processors and FM transmitters.
Now, as the minister knows, and we've already talked earlier on, we now have a universal newborn hearing screening program. And, you know, it is really, really important that the kids who are identified as having hearing deficiencies can get those hearing deficiencies addressed, and that includes making sure that these equipments, including children's hearing aids and so on, are available and that these are going to be supported.
The fact is that the development of a child's brain is such that if a child can be helped to hear properly early on, they can learn language, their brain can develop, they can do well in school. But all too often in the past, children who were missed, they didn't develop language properly, they developed learning problems, and they have had, you know, lifelong difficulties as a result.
So we're talking about something that can make a lifetime difference for a child, and that lifetime difference is not only for that child. The extra expense of, you know, helping a child whose hearing problem has developed into a learning disability is very substantial. And that extra expense deals with the support that may be necessary in schools. The school costs as well as health-care costs could impact Justice costs and so on.
So what I'm asking for from the minister is an update on what his plans are with regard to the KPMG recommendation that the support for personal audiology equipment, specifically children's hearing aids, bone-anchored hearing-implement processors–implant processors and FM transmitters, would be reduced. Is he going to follow the KPMG recommendations, or is he going to reject this recommendation and make sure that children in this province are properly supported?
Mr. Chairperson: The honourable minister for Health, Seniors and Active Living.
Mr. Goertzen: Thank–Madam–or Mr. Chairperson. Sorry.
One of the challenges with being the most transparent government in Canada and releasing, you know, all these–the different reports is exactly this, of course. You know, so, within any report, you won't always accept everything, and I think that there probably isn't a government around that has accepted every recommendation of every report that they've ever received in government.
But the KPMG report, of course, has many different suggestions and ideas and recommendations. A great number of them we've acted on, many of which we won't act on. And I think he's seen the priority that we've taken in terms of the things we will act on in terms of the structural changes around Shared Health, which he's had questions about already this afternoon.
And those have been the priority for the government. We won't act on every recommendation. I don't really intend to go through, you know, recommendation by recommendation other than to say we got a lot of recommendations, we've acted on many of them, so you've already seen what–our priorities.
I think you could look to the history of this government in terms of supporting newborn hearing. In fact, I had the opportunity not too long ago to celebrate with a very young Manitoban who was the youngest Manitoban to ever receive a cochlear implant. Her name was Ireland and–her name is Ireland. And it was quite something to interact with the parents and see the video of when she first was able to hear. And I think that that's a demonstration of our support for newborn hearing and hearing in general.
And certainly, when it comes to the KPMG report, as helpful as it was in terms of looking at us compared to other provinces, we won't accept every recommendation within the report