After the announcement of the adult cochlear implant funding boost, the lack of detail left a number of questions to be answered.
The biggest question was why the Ministry of Health was about to fund 60 additional cochlear implants at over $108,000 each when all previous implants have been funded at around half that value? We also wanted for find out if this funding was going to be ongoing or just one off.
So we put in an Official Information Act request to ask for details.
Here is the OIA Response.
There is some very interesting information in what the Ministry of Health has provided. As usual they have redacted plenty which is disappointing given the intent of the OIA. This is a systemic problem with government departments thinking the public shouldn’t know what advice has been given.
That aside, here are some observations:
- The CI trusts have been funded $500,000 each to increase their capacity to provide services to these additional volumes. The volumes have gone from 20 per trust per year to 50 per trust per year.
- The CI trusts have been funded almost $1.4m each to provide the life time cost. It is not clear if this is only for the 30 additional CIs each trust or if this is related to their current caseload of adult CIs.
- There is the introduction of the concept of “…a maximum of 4 processor upgrades” per user over their life time.
- There is data showing that two people on the Southern programme have been waiting over 5 years.
- The Northern programme doesn’t seem to be able to or have provided this detailed information.
- The Minister appears to have chosen an option that the Ministry has redacted (given the YES/NO option is not selected on the options shown).
The lift in funded adult cochlear implant operations from 40 to 100 nationally is highly welcome. However the cochlear implant community will be deeply concerned with a number of issues. These include:
- The Ministry continues to be unclear as to whether this funding boost to 100 cochlear implants is an ongoing one or just a one off for 2017/18. The Ministry has chosen to redact what the Minister approved which is really pretty poor.
- The life time cost of having a cochlear implant has never been properly established and funded. The Ministry has made ad-hoc reactive moves when things have got too bad to address this. There is a need to figure out what the fair and reasonable cost is. Then this should be funded on an annual basis to ensure the trusts actually use this funding appropriately.
- The large capacity increase funding drop needs to be spent well and transparently. $500,000 could purchase an additional 10 cochlear implant operations. The trusts should show that this funding contributes positively to their ability to support cochlear implant users.