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Mandatory congenital heart disease screenings for newborns now law

Posted: June 26, 2013 - 8:44pm

All Alaskan newborns will now be screened for congenital heart disease. Gov. Sean Parnell signed the Nisi Act Wednesday that will require all newborns be checked for the disease at their birth hospital or birthing facility.

The process to test babies for congenital heart disease is shockingly easy. You know the little clip the nurse puts on your finger to monitor your blood oxygen content and pulse during an exam? It’s called a pulse oximeter and it’s what medical staff use to make sure newborns aren’t sent home with undiagnosed congenital heart disease.

Larger hospitals will be required to comply with the new law starting January 1, 2014. Smaller hospitals, birthing centers, midwives and other birth attendants that assist in fewer than 20 births per year will have until January 2016 to acquire the necessary equipment, which is fairly inexpensive.

The bill was sponsored by Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna and named after his niece who was tested after her birth in a hospital in Japan and was subsequently diagnosed with congenital heart disease.

“Were it not for the testing and the subsequent early treatment she received, I could be telling you a very different story today,” Micciche said in a press release.

Nebraska, Louisiana and Nevada have all passed similar laws requiring the screening. Texas and New York currently have legislation pending on the issue.

Contact reporter Jennifer Canfield at 523-2279 or at jennifer.n.canfield@juneauempire.com.

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