Anthony Albanese’s promise that EVERY mum and dad needs to know about: Labor leader pledges massive change to baby screening program
- States and territories screen newborn babies for 25 conditions and diseases
- Anthony Albanese wants to increase this to 80 in line with best practice in world
- He is pledging a nationally consistent system if he wins the May election
Anthony Albanese will expand a screening program to test newborn babies to include up to 80 conditions if he wins the election.
The Labor leader has pledged $38.4 million to deliver a ‘world’s best practice’ screening program that would be the same for every baby in Australia.
‘A Labor Government will expand the newborn screening program. We’ll test for more conditions so all Australians can get a better start to life,’ he said on Wednesday.
Anthony Albanese (centre) will introduce a universal screening program to test newborn babies for up to 80 conditions if he wins the election
The federal government helps fund newborn baby screening, which normally involves testing blood taken from the baby’s heel.
But states and territories decide which diseases to screen for and only test for around 25 conditions.
Mr Albanese is proposing to make the program the same across the nation and expand the number of diseases that are tested for up to 80.
‘Different states also screen for different conditions, leading to inequality in health care across Australia,’ he said.
‘Labor will put an end to this testing lottery by introducing a universal screening program.
‘Parents can be confident that no matter which hospital their child is born in, their baby will be fully screened for rare conditions.’
Conditions currently screened for include cystic fibrosis, primary congenital hypothyroidism, phenylketonuria and congenital adrenal hyperplasia.
Labor has not yet provided detail on which extra conditions will be screened for.
Labor claimed the screening programme has not been updated since the 1980s but Heath Minister Greg Hunt said: ‘Not for the first time, Labor’s been caught out not knowing the facts on health.
‘The Commonwealth already pays for these services through the National Health Reform Agreement (NHRA), following the recommendation by the expert Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC).
‘The newborn bloodspot screening (NBS) program has been updated multiple times, most recently in 2020 to include Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (offered in NSW, ACT, SA, QLD, TAS & NT) and Spinal Muscular Atrophy (offered in NSW & ACT).
‘Once a condition has been recommended for inclusion in the screening program by MSAC, it is then up to states and territories to determine whether they offer the screening in their jurisdictions.
‘Labor’s commitment again ignores the medical advice to get a headline. After having to walk back their aged care nursing commitment just four days after announcing it, it paints a stark picture that Labor is nowhere near ready to manage the nation’s health.’
Mr Albanese is proposing to make the screening program the same across the nation and expand the number of diseases that are tested for up to 80. Pictured: A Sydney family