After a five-year legal battle of the Together for Life Association, the Ministry of Health and Social Protection has started the implementation of the provision of the package of services for children with impaired hearing issues.
Together for Life successfully achieved the provision of services for hearing impaired children, and specifically the surgery that restores the hearing with installment of the Cochlear Implant. After a 5-year legal battle and 3 cases won at the Court, the right of these children has been restored.
The Ministry of Health and Social Protection, after 6 years from the approval of the draft decision for financing the service for cochlear implant package from the Health Insurance Fund, in the ORL service at the University Hospital Center "Mother Teresa", has approved the provision of 20 cochlear implants interventions to be performed every year.The continuation of this service returns the hope for all children born in Albania with hearing problems (estimated at 60-70 children every year), a problem denounced since 2016 by the ‘Together for Life’ association.
Through an investigative article, published on April 20, 2016, entitled "Hundreds of children are at risk of becoming deaf, the state abandons them and why they must be provided with treatment" the Together for Life association denounced for the first time the lack of service for of cochlear implants in state structures, bringing the testimonies of family members, the claims of the institutions and the opinions of experts in the field. The long waiting years for a surgery that the state should offer for free, but never delivered for years. This has been the bitter truth of children who are born with hearing problems and needed the cochlear implant.
After investigating this case and making it public through some investigative articles, ogether for Life prepared the needed documentation that was sent to the Administrative Court with a Request-lawsuit,by which it was requested to establish the discrimination of the minor GL, in the form of “Denial of a reasonable fit”, correction of the health consequences by performing administrative actions to provide the Cochlear Implant for the minor and also provide compensation for the damage caused by not having the procedure in time.
On 10.04.2018, the Administrative Court of First Instance of Tirana announced the decision in favor of the accuser, accepted that the inaction of the above health institutions caused discrimination of the minor GL,ordered the provision of the Cochlear Implant device for the minor and ordered a compensation of the damage in the amount of 6 838 590 ALL”. Also after the appeal of the decision, the Administrative Court of Appeal (Tirana) upheld the decision of the Administrative Court of First Instance, which paved the way for the execution of a very positive court decision in favor of a minor citizen discriminated for reasons related to his illness.
During the long trial period of the case, TFL worked to motion all state mechanisms to follow the case and, on February 23, 2017 there were some positive reactions, were the ORL service at QSUT performed successfully the first 3 surgical interventions. Doctors of the department promised that this procedure would continue routinely. But, in fact, after those interventions no other procedure was carried out.
Meanwhile, in June 2018, QSUT launched the tender procedures for the purchase of the Cochlear Implant. And when hope returned for the minors, the companies listed for the competition appealed against the tender procedures, with their claims leading to cancellation of the procedure. For the tender procedure 3 decisions of the Public Procurement Commission have been given, the period of suspension of the procedure has been from 20-07-2018 to 29-05-2019. The tender was canceled with the argument that"None of the submitted bids complies with the criteria set out in the tender documents".“.
The ‘Together for Life’ association continued its efforts!
In October 2019, 3 new cases were prepared to be sent to the Court. Currently, the TFL continues the legal battle to guarantee the right of minors to benefit from the cochlear implant procedure.
On 20.11.2019, the ‘Together for Life’ association, has raised these issues also in the Parliamentary Committee on Labor, Social Affairs and Health.TFL brought to the attention of the members of the parliament that “Since 2014 until today no services have been provided, the initial three that were performed, had external financial support, but have been realized in the QSUT premises, which confirms the capacity of QSUT to perform this procedure.
Only a few days ago, in the University Hospital Center "Mother Teresa", 5 cochlear implants surgeries were performed. Following the official communication from the Ministry of Health and Social Protection, the TFL confirmed that another 20 implants will be performed by the end of the year. The procedure will continue routinely, where 20 cochlear implants will be performed every year.
The Together for Life Association guarantees that it will continue to monitor the process of provision for the cochlear implants in the hospitals, to ensure that it will continue normally and that there will be no more delays and obstacles.
**A cochlear implant is an electronic device that is surgically implanted in a person and enables hearing in a person who is completely deaf or has a profound hearing loss. People who undergo an implant can be children who have been born with profound hearing loss or who have lost it for a long time for various reasons, for example infections, medications, etc. Adults who have lost their hearing during their lifetime for various reasons also benefit from implantation procedure.