Ontario Government Improves Newborn Screening

State-Of-The-Art Lab At CHEO Will Help Families Across Ontario

OTTAWA, July, 2006 – The official opening of Canada’s most comprehensive newborn screening program at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) means that every baby born in Ontario will be screened for several rare genetic disorders, said Premier Dalton McGuinty.

“The birth of a child is a joyous, but anxious time for families — and that’s why we have to work to improve the care we provide to newborns,” said Premier McGuinty. “By expanding screening for more disorders, we can make a real difference in the health of our children.”

The Premier helped officially open the new screening lab today at CHEO, together with families, health care professionals and local officials.

The government is investing $7 million annually to expand the number of disorders newborns are screened for in Ontario. This investment will also support the lab and help buy new, high-tech screening equipment.

Currently, the lab at CHEO receives blood samples from all Ontario newborns and screens them for three rare genetic diseases. By the end of the year, the lab will screen for 27 disorders. Ontario will now be the only province in Canada to screen infants for blood disorders like sickle cell disease. This is expected to help about 130,000 families each year.

Newborn screening programs identify a range of disorders in infants. Early detection means newborns can be treated sooner, which helps reduce the chance of serious health problems later in life.

“Our government is making sure children in Ontario have the best possible start in life by developing the most comprehensive newborn screening program in Canada,” said Minister of Health and Long-Term Care George Smitherman. “This program will reassure parents about the health of their child or provide them with rapid results, so they can get the treatment they need for their child as soon as possible.”

“We’re excited to be home to a groundbreaking newborn screening program that will make Ontario a national leader in this area,” said Garry Cardiff, CEO of CHEO. “We look forward to our expertise and cutting-edge technology making a positive difference in the lives of newborns and their parents.”

Today’s announcement is just one example of how the government is working on behalf of Ontario families concerned about their children’s health. Other initiatives include:

  • Adding three new vaccines, free of charge, to protect against chicken pox, meningococcal and pneumococcal disease
  • Funding insulin pumps and related supplies for about 6,500 children living with Type 1 diabetes
  • Funding the expansion of the hematology and cancer outpatient clinic at The Hospital for Sick Children.

“Our children’s health is our most precious resource and Ontario families want and deserve the very best health care,” said Premier McGuinty. “By doing our best to screen for diseases and protect our children’s health, we’re on their side in building a healthier Ontario and a better quality of life for us all.”