Ear health partnership brings brighter future for Aboriginal kids

A new partnership between the Telethon Kids Institute, Dr George Sim and St John of God Murdoch Hospital will offer essential surgery at no cost for a group of Aboriginal children suffering severe ear infections.

Djaalinj Waakinj 

10 October 2019

The current wait time for specialist treatment for otitis media (OM), also known as middle ear infection or ‘glue ear’, can be up to two-and-a-half years. With approximately half of all Aboriginal children affected by OM, this lengthy delay for treatment can result in significant long-term consequences.

The Telethon Kids Institute’s Urban Aboriginal Ear Health program has been set up to help reduce the burden of ear infections and identifies children who are most in need of urgent surgery however these children still face a long wait for treatment.

Now thanks to Paediatric Ear, Nose and Throat Surgeon Dr George Sim and St John of God Murdoch Hospital children involved in the program will have access to free grommet surgery with minimal wait times to ensure they receive crucial treatment as early as possible.

The project is named Djaalinj Waakinj or 'listening and hearing' in Noongar language. 

Dr Chris Brennan-Jones, Ear Health Team Lead at the Wesfarmers Centre of Vaccines and Infectious Diseases, based at Telethon Kids Institute, says fast-tracked treatment will make a huge difference to the lives of these children.

“During the waiting period infections get worse, hearing loss may increase and learning suffers – leading to issues surrounding education, behaviour, social relationships, employment and other future endeavours – that’s why early treatment is so vital,” said Dr Brennan-Jones.

Dr Sim has been treating Aboriginal children in regional areas for many years and has seen first-hand the long-term impacts caused by OM that continue into adulthood if not addressed quickly.

“It is especially important for young ones laying down their speech and language pathways. Normal hearing levels are essential at this stage of development, so I am grateful this partnership will allow me to operate in a very short time scale and improve their hearing levels when kids need it most,” said Dr Sim.

St John of God Murdoch Hospital has chosen to support the program as their ‘Charity of the Year’ where hospital caregivers select and support a health-based community initiative.

The colourful St Michael’s paediatric ward at Murdoch will care for the patients in a family-friendly environment.

The fundraising effort received a kick-start at the annual Murdoch Ball, where caregivers raised over $11,400 towards the project that will help fund surgery for 15 children over the next 12 months.

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