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Codey-Vitale Legislation To Require Dhss’ Licensed Birthing Facilities To Do Heart Screening Clears Senate Committee

A view of the Senate Chambers from the 2010-2011 Senate Reorganization.

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senators Richard J. Codey (D-Essex) and Joseph F. Vitale (D-Middlesex) that would require Department of Health and Senior Services’ (DHSS) licensed birthing facilities to do heart screening today cleared the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee.

“When it comes to newborns, government has to show their heart. The kind of screening this legislation would require could save countless newborn lives and find problems that might otherwise have gone undetected. It is a small, painless procedure, the results of which can’t be measured in dollars or cents,” said Codey.

The legislation, S-2752, would require each birthing facility licensed by the DHSS to perform a pulse oximetry screening for congenital health defects (CHDs), a minimum of 24 hours after birth, on every newborn in its care. The bill would take effect on the 90th day after enactment, but the Commissioner of DHSS may take such anticipatory administrative action in advance as is necessary to implement the provisions of the bill.

“Heart disease continues to be a leading cause of fatality in this country, so it is essential that we take all steps necessary to detect it,” said Vitale. “Early detection through this kind of screening can save lives and prevent serious health issues later on in life. This is a common sense measure that will greatly increase public health.”

For newborns, pulse oximetry screening involves taping a small sensor to a newborn’s foot while the sensor beams red light through the foot to measure how much oxygen is in the blood. Pulse oximetry screening is effective at detecting CHDs that may otherwise go undetected by current screening methods. Pulse oximetry screenings are non-invasive, painless, and take approximately one minute to perform.

According to the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services’ Advisory Committee on Heritable Disorders in Newborns and Children, congenital heart disease affects approximately seven to nine of every 1,000 live births in the United States and Europe; the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that CHD is the leading cause of infant death due to birth defects.

Current methods used to detect CHDs include prenatal ultrasound screening and repeated clinical examinations; however, prenatal ultrasound screenings, alone, identify less than half of all CHD cases. Many newborn lives could potentially be saved by requiring birthing facilities to incorporate pulse oximetry screening as a method for early detection of CHDs in conjunction with current CHD screening methods.

The legislation now moves to the Senate floor.