Newborn heart screening bill moving quickly
Posted February 26, 2013
State lawmakers are moving quickly on a proposal they say will save lives among North Carolina newborns.
House Bill 105 would require hospitals to administer a "pulse oximetry" test to newborns. The test measures the amount of oxygen in the baby's blood and can catch most heart defects before the infant is sent home.
According to the American Heart Association, about one in 125 babies is born with a heart defect. About one in 500 has a critical defect that can be life-threatening.
Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olson was at the legislature Tuesday to lobby for the bill.
Olson's son TJ was diagnosed in-utero with a heart defect called hyperplastic left heart syndrome. Because they knew about the problem in advance, Olson said, medical experts were standing by at his son's birth to make sure he got the care he needed.
"Fortunately, we were one of those families that DID know," Olson said. But other families aren't so lucky.
It isn't unusual for a congenital heart defect to go unnoticed in an infant who appears to be healthy. Some are sent home, only to sicken or even pass away a few days later because of the problem.
The "pulse ox" test is non-invasive and costs about $5. Some hospitals administer it routinely, but others don't.
"All of them need to do it. All of them need to it do now," said Rep. Jim Fulghum, R-Wake, a doctor. "It's easy, it's inexpensive, and it's very effective. It's very simple technology."
Sen. Andrew Brock, R-Davie, thanked the families and children that came to the legislature to advocate for the measure. "Hopefully, your stories will encourage legislators to act quicker and get this done as soon as possible, because every day is a day wasted."
"It's a do-good bill," said Rep. Skip Stam, R-Wake. "There's no downside. It's something easy to do."
"This was a no-brainer," added sponsor Rep. Mark Hollo, R-Alexander.
The bill passed the House Health Committee on a unanimous vote and is headed for the House floor. Supporters say they hope to have it on the governor's desk "in a couple of weeks."