Assembly Committee Approves Newborn Screening

There is a relatively easy answer to a serious disease that hits newborns in California, according to Assembly member Marty Block (D-San Diego).

“This bill is designed to ensure that newborns are screened for critical congenital heart disease,” Block said, presenting his bill, AB 1731, to the Assembly Committee on Health.

“It is known as CCHD, it causes severe and life-threatening illness, and affects secen to nine of every 1,000 live births in the U.S. This will bring California’s newborn screening program into alignment with the most up-to-date public health standards and practices,” Block said.

Glenn Desandre, a pediatrician at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, said the test is non-invasive, similar to the current screening for congenital hearing impairment.

“Many cases of CCHD are missed on clinical exams before discharge,” Desandre said. “And diagnosis after discharge increases the risk of damage and death in these infants.”

Opposition came from B.J. Bartleson, vice president of nursing and clinical services for the California Hospital Association.

“CHA supports the general intent of this bill,” Bartleson said. “But we are concerned about funding this unfunded mandate. The costs have not been discussed up to this point.”

Costs could end up being forcibly absorbed by hospitals.

“Hospitals will have to purchase special pediatric equipment and supplies to perform the test,” Bartleson said. “Additional personnel will be necessary to support daily maintenance of the program, including provider education and family counseling.”

The bill passed the health committee on a 15-4 vote, and now heads to Appropriations.

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