McDonnell signs executive order forming CCHD workgroup

Gov. Bob McDonnell has signed Executive Directive No. 4 establishing a workgroup to develop a plan for implementing a program to screen babies born in Virginia for a life-threatening condition called critical congenital heart disease (CCHD). In Virginia, almost 4 in 1,000 newborns are diagnosed each year with one of the defects causing CCHD.

CCHD represents a group of severe and life-threatening clinical outcomes caused by congenital heart defects that result in abnormal blood flow and oxygen deprivation. These defects require intervention within the first year of life and delayed diagnosis can result in death or significant morbidity.  Screening newborns for CCHD using pulse oximetry has been recommended through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Recommended Uniform Screening Panel.

The governor’s executive directive calls for Secretary of Health and Human Resources, Dr. William A. Hazel, Jr., M.D., to convene a work group of experts who will assist the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) in developing a plan for implementing a program for pulse oximetry monitoring for screening newborns for CCHD. Currently, 74 percent of newborns are diagnosed at birth.

“The Commonwealth has a history of acting quickly to screen and identify newborns for potential birth defects when new recommendations are developed,” Secretary of Health and Human Resources Dr. Bill Hazel said. “Virginia was one of the first states to adopt the recommended panel of 29 newborn screening tests.  Our State Health Commissioner, Dr. Karen Remley, has already initiated efforts to assess current screening practices and to develop strategies to address the most effective and efficient ways to implement pulse oximetry screening.”

According to Dr. Remley, “CCHD is a serious condition that is diagnosed in over 300 infants in Virginia each year.  VDH fully supports the goal of assuring, in collaboration with Virginia clinicians, that all infants receive early screening to facilitate the prompt detection and treatment of CCHD.  VDH partners with the clinical community on a wide range of congenital conditions and looks forward to including incorporation of CCHD in this collaboration.”

The workgroup will assist VDH in developing a plan for implementing appropriate early intervention services to newborns identified as having CCHD.  The goal of early intervention services will be to reduce rates of death or disability among such children.

A copy of the executive directive may be found on the Governor’s website www.governor.virginia.gov/PolicyOffice/ExecutiveDirectives.

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