PARENTS of babies born with the rare birth defect gastroschisis have rejected the findings of a Health NSW investigation which explained the condition's high occurrence in the Northern Rivers as a “random aggregation of cases”.
A panel of health experts was pulled together to investigate as many as seven Northern Rivers babies born with the defect – a condition in which the intestinal contents protrude through a hole in the stomach – since 2008.
The panel looked at the total number of babies born with gastroschisis on the Northern Rivers since 2000.
North Coast director of public health Paul Corben, who oversaw the investigation, said while it appeared there was a higher rate in recent years, when rates were looked at over a 10-year period it became clear the high number of cases were most likely random.
There were no babies born with the condition on the Northern Rivers between 2000 and 2007.
“I know this may not be acceptable to the parents, but there is no ready explanation,” Mr Corben said.
Jacqui McSkimming, the mother of a child with the condition, said the investigation had failed to look at other possible explanations for the cluster, and she did not accept the way the rates were interpreted.
Mr Corben thanked The Northern Star for its role in revealing a “stark” breakdown in the reporting of birth defects in border towns, where babies are often treated in other states, and whose details do not end up on the NSW Birth Anomalies Register.
He said the investigation hadalso brought together a team of experts who may continue to share information about the condition which has increased by about 500% over 20 years worldwide.
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