Friday 28 October 2016

330,000 over-70s set to benefit from cut in prescription costs

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

Published 12/10/2016 | 02:30

Photo: PA
Photo: PA

AROUND 330,000 over-70s will benefit from the cut in prescription charges for medical card holders.

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The measure, announced in yesterday's Budget, will see the prescription per item charge for this age group reduced from €2.50 to €2.

And from March, the monthly limit on what they pay will be €20 - which will come as a relief to elderly people who are on medications for several conditions but dependent on the State pension.

Health Minister Simon Harris yesterday credited the Independent Alliance ministers, including his colleague, Disability Minister Finian McGrath, for pushing through the €13m measure after his own health officials had said it was unaffordable this year.

He said: "It was not because I did want to do it. I had priorities. Mr McGrath has a lot of influence and in his late-night discussions with my Cabinet colleagues, they decided to make resources available above and beyond what I had."

The minister confirmed proposals to give medical cards to 10,000 children covered by the Domicilary Care Allowance from next year when legislation is passed.

The budget for the health service in 2017 will rise to €14.6bn, an increase of nearly €500m on last year.

Mr Harris said: "This is the highest budget ever and with these increased resources we can plan for the challenge of increased demand from a growing an ageing population."

The centre-piece of the health budget in 2017 is an additional €50m to tackle public waiting lists.

Some €20m of this will be spent on outsourcing treatments and will be given to the National Treatment Purchase Fund to purchase procedures in private and public hospitals.

The minister was unable to say how many of the 535,000 public patients languishing on waiting lists will get treated under the €20m funding.

The original plan was to allocate around €15m to outsourcing.

The fund will be targeted at those waiting longest, many of whom are the sickest and need the most complex treatments. It was reckoned that €15m would only benefit around 3,500.

The long-awaited roll out of the vaccine to protect against Meningitis B is promised and there will also be a vaccine against the rotarvirus.

Mr Harris believed that there is spare capacity in some public hospitals, which can be used once they get additional funding. Although the Government promised free GP care to all children aged six to 12 years this October, this deadline will not be met.

It is very dependent on a agreeing a new contract to cover medical card and other state services with family doctors.

Asked if the older children will get the GP visit cards next year, Mr Harris said the extension may happen next year but he could not say for certain..

He will attempt to hire 1,000 additional nurses.

When quizzed on how this will be possible, given that hundreds are already snubbing work here for jobs abroad, he said he intends to meet with young graduate nurses later this week. He will take on board a series of suggestions they have on recruitment and retention.

The Budget has an extra €10m for home help and home care packages.

An extra €40m is being given to capital spending to take account of big projects like a new Central Mental Hospital.

Junior Health Minister Helen McEntee said mental health will get another €35m.

Minister of State for Disabilities, Finian McGrath said there is a commitment that all 18-year-old school leavers with disabilities will have access to supports.

Irish Independent

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