Gov. Walker Signs Bill to Improve Newborn Health Screenings

By: WSAW Staff
By: WSAW Staff

Governor Walker has signed Senate Bill 523, strengthening Wisconsin’s newborn screening program. The bill opens the door for Wisconsin to add congenital heart defect (CHD) screening, often referred to as “pulse oximetry.”

Pulse oximetry is simple— on adults it’s the grey clip the nurse puts on your finger in the emergency room. On babies, it’s more commonly a probe with a light on the end that is attached to the baby’s hand and foot with a Band-Aid®-like adhesive. It doesn’t puncture the baby’s skin and only takes minutes to administer. The probe tests how well the baby’s blood is saturated with oxygen, an indicator of how well the heart is functioning.

In September 2011, Federal Health and Human Services Secretary Sebilius recommended, based on the guidance of a panel of experts, that all states consider adding congenital heart defect (CHD) screening to their newborn screening programs. Since that time, more than half the country has added it, but Wisconsin has not.

Senate Bill 523 gives the Department of Health Services (DHS) the authority it needs to add CHD screening as a screening for all newborns.

To date, DHS has not been able to add it, because its authority to add or delete newborn screenings is limited to blood or urine based screenings, which the CHD screening is not. This legislation expands the Department’s authority to consider all types of newborn screenings, including the CHD screening.

It is recommended the CHD screening be done between 24-48 hours after delivery.

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