Saturday 23 September 2017

Cancer patients 'driven to wall' by hospital charges

(stock photo)
(stock photo)

Ian Begley

Inpatient charges and the costs of medicine are driving cancer sufferers "to the wall", according to a leading charity.

In its pre-Budget submission, the Irish Cancer Society said cancer patients were being financially hammered by the €80 charge for hospital inpatients.

The charity is calling for both the prescription charge and inpatient charge to be abolished.

It also wants the amount patients have to pay for medicine under the Drugs Payment Scheme to be lowered from €144 a month to €85.

"We hear stories of immense financial hardship from cancer patients nearly every day, and it's clear that many are struggling to cope," said Donal Buggy, the ICS head of services and advocacy.

"The January increase in the inpatient charge from €75 to €80 per visit, which affects cancer patients undergoing treatment, merely adds insult to injury, at a time when the State should be looking to reduce costs for patients."

The society's pre-Budget submission comes amid a torrid week for the health service, as figures revealed that 687,000 are waiting for treatment in public hospitals. The July statistics from the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) represent an increase of nearly 9,500 compared with May.

Social Democrat TD Róisín Shortall said the waiting list figures represented a "huge failing" on the part of the Government.

"Providing a decent health service where people can get timely treatment, on the basis of need, is a basic requirement of any civilised country," she said.

"Yet for people who depend on the public health system, things are getting progressively worse by the month."

A spokesperson for Health Minister Simon Harris told the Irish Independent that while it was "very disappointing" that July's figures had not shown an overall improvement, there continued to be an intensive focus on waiting lists.

"With regard to the waiting list action plans for 2017, the latest data from the NTPF and HSE show that this plan is currently ahead of target, with 18,816 inpatient/day case patients having come off the waiting list, which includes almost 600 treated under the NTPF initiative," he said.

"Over 66,000 patients have come off the outpatient waiting list under these plans."

Meanwhile, more than 1,200 people aged under 65, most with disabilities, are living in nursing homes for the elderly, according to the HSE.

At the end of June, there were 1,222 people under 65 accessing nursing home care via the Fair Deal scheme. The Disability Federation of Ireland said this type of accommodation was totally unacceptable.

The HSE said people with disabilities in nursing home care should be supported to move back to their home of choice, if they wanted.

Irish Independent

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