Dozens more families whose children were caught up in a cochlear implant bungle at a major Adelaide hospital have received ex gratia payments from the SA government, taking the total payout to almost $3 million.

The number of families to receive the payments over the flawed audiology program at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital has climbed to 139, the state government on Friday, revealed, and includes 45 whose children “may have been impacted”.

Problems with the implant program were made public in March last year, following the concerns of parents and independent audiologists that implants had been incorrectly programmed, leading to hearing and developmental delays.

In August, the government revealed 54 ex gratia payments, worth a combined $1.48 million, had already been made and on Friday, confirmed another 85 families had since received payments.

The total of $2.72 million falls into two categories, with $50,000 payments to 45 families whose children may have been impacted by the bungle, and $5,000 “for any stress caused” to 94 families whose children were found not to have mapping issues received.

The total amount includes $50,000 payments to 45 families whose children may have been impacted.(ABC News: Marco Catalano)

The outcome coincides with the release of a final report by hearing loss service provider NextSense, which found that aspects of the hospital’s cochlear implant program’s “clinical care management” were in need of “further development”.

“On behalf of the Women’s and Children’s Health (WCH) Network, I am very sorry to those families where better care could have delivered a different outcome for their child,” WCH chief executive Rebecca Graham said following the report’s release.

“I’ve personally heard some very brave parents and participants who have been involved in this review and I can only apologise for their distress.”

The government said the payments did not preclude families from pursuing legal action for compensation, and Ms Graham said that some families had secured “legal representation” to do that.

Health Minister Chris Picton, who also apologised to the families, said the government would accept “in full” the recommendations from the NextSense review.

“None of this waives any legal action or rights that families have to take further action,” he said.

“Extra staff has been put in place … [and] there has been a big turnaround in terms of the safety and quality and oversight of that program.”

SA Health chief executive Robyn Lawrence said families with ongoing concerns should reach out to the hospital.(ABC News: Manny Tesconi)

The hospital said that it had since recruited six further staff, including audiologists, speech pathologists, a social worker and “a cochlear implant program navigator”.

SA Health chief executive Robyn Lawrence said the process of identifying families had now concluded, but they could still come forward.

“If families have ongoing concerns, they still have the option of coming back to us in the meantime,” she said.

‘Frustrating time for families’

Lawyer Peter Jackson — who is representing the claims of 30 children – said some families felt as if they had not had the opportunity to be included in the process.

“When I’ve spoken to the families, most of their concern is the fact that they haven’t felt that they’ve actually been involved in the process and therefore they question whether the process actually takes into account what’s actually happened to their children,” he said.

“I think it’s been a very frustrating time for most families.”

He was also critical of the ex gratia payment system.

“Ultimately, because it’s an ex gratia payment, it’s essentially a payment saying ‘sorry, we made a mistake’, it means that the families can’t change that, but the concern or the gripe with the families is that some people are getting $50,000 for the same admission that others are only getting $5,000 for,” he said.

“The families concerns are ultimately that there’s an inequality with the way the assessment of actually who receives which amount through the ex gratia process.”

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