Dr. Birkena Qirjazi is ENT surgeon & audiologist at the University Hospital Center of Tirana, Albania and professor at the Department of ENT and Ophthalmology, at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Medicine of Tirana. She is specialized in ear problems, including the hearing disorders both in children and adults. Dr Qirjazi is also the initiator of the neonatal hearing screening programs in Albania.
- Methods. Under the umbrella of EUSCREEN, Horizon 2020 project, a NHS was
established in three areas in Albania, counting approximately 1/3 of annual births of the country. Two different protocols were used and the babies who failed the screening paradigm were sent for audiological diagnosis at 'Mother Theresa’ University Hospital Center in Tirana.
In order to evaluate the impact and the limitations of the program, multiple tools such as questionnaires, cost analyses, epidemiological study and various statistical investigations were utilized. The results were applied to present a strategy to the Albanian Health Authorities in order to extent the program in the whole country.
- Results. 22,814 subjects were screened over a 30 months period in 4 maternity hospitals, ie 96% of the babies born in these institutions. 20,663 of these subjects passed the first screening test. Upon the completion the screening paradigm and the audiological testing, 22 babies were diagnosed with various degrees, uni or bilateral, hearing loss and sent for rehabilitation. A database, with tracing possibilities was developed and at the end of the EUSCREEN study, a similar one is in place and operating. Each screening step and each screening nurse results, was analyzed in order to understand the reasons behind a high level of LTFP cases.
- Conclusion. The experience of implementing NHS in the Albanian context has highlighted a number of key areas of learning that could support other countries that are looking to implement NHS. The program was successful in reaching a high proportion of infants. However, LTFU between screening steps and to diagnostic assessment remained the largest problem throughout the two and a half years of implementation. The results of this study emphasize the importance of a reliable monitoring system to keep track of all eligible infants and their screening outcomes, to monitor the screening program, to assure quality of the screening, to document
the results and to adjust protocols based on context to improve the outcomes of the screening program.