26 September 2023

Health panel makes call for hearing services

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The Department of Health has presented the report of a panel of independent experts who reviewed its Hearing Services Program, declaring the Program to be of great value to Australians suffering from hearing loss and those who supported them.

In a joint statement, members of the Hearing Services Program Review Expert Panel, Michael Woods and Zena Burgess said, however, the Report of the Independent Review of the Hearing Services Program found more than half of those people with hearing loss who were currently eligible under the Program were not actively taking advantage of its services.

Professor Woods and Dr Burgess said in completing the Report, panel members undertook extensive consultations, including responses to a draft report of May 2021.

“We met with, and received submissions from, consumer advocacy groups, clients, industry, professional associations and academics,” they said.

“With the assistance of a Department of Health Secretariat, we conducted our own analyses and drew on previous reports and research.”

Professor Woods and Dr Burgess said the Report identified various barriers that eligible people faced in accessing the Program and recommended reforms.

“In particular, we recommend that eligibility to the Program be extended to low income health care card holders from 26 years of age until Age Pension eligibility age and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged from 26 to 50, supplementing the current service provided to those aged under 26 and over 50,” they said.

The panel members said the Report also called for eligibility to be extended to permanent residents of aged care homes.

“Overall, we have made 22 recommendations which aim to give clients greater choice and control over the management of their hearing loss; improve the equity, effectiveness, efficiency and sustainability of service delivery; ensure good governance; and to modernise the Program to reflect changes in policy, markets and technological developments,” they said.

The 183-page Report can be accessed at this PS News link.

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