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Heart Defect Screening for Newborns
June 17, 2014- Howard Ondick
HARRISBURG- Legislation that would require newborn babies to undergo a screening for Congenital Heart Defect has passed the Pennsylvania Senate and is now before the House for final approval. 

Our speaker is Senator Daylin Leach of Montgomery County, a strong supporter of legislation that would require newborn babies to be screen for structural heart defects.

House Bill 1420 creates the Newborn Child Pulse Oximetry Screening Act to require birthing facilities to perform critical congenital heart defects screenings on newborns using pulse oximetry, which is a simple oxygen test. The estimated cost is $1 to $4 per screening.

Senator Leach introduced a similar bill three years ago after he was a mother in his district lost a child due to a cardiac circulatory problem and alerted him to the need for congenital heart defect screenings.

The legislation was amended in the House Human Services Committee to allow for the use of new technology that may be developed to replace pulse oximetry in the future. The legislation defines newborns as a child less than 28 days old. The bill allows for an exception if a parent or guardian of the newborn dissents on religious grounds. Under the bill, the Pennsylvania Department of Health would promulgate regulations.

The Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee amended the bill to define "Health care practitioner" as it is defined in the Health Care Facilities Act and to clarify that a health care practitioner who delivers a newborn child somewhere other than in a birthing facility must perform a pulse oximetry screening within 48 hours of the birth.

The measure was passed by the Senate on a vote of 50-0. Because it was amended in the Senate, it now goes back to the House for final approval. The bill is now before the House Rules Committee and could be voted this week. Once itís signed into law by the governor, the legislation will take effect in 90 days.

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