Children with cancer will get medical card for five years
Children who are diagnosed with cancer will automatically get a medical card for a period of five years.
The change comes into effect from today - at the same time as the start of free GP care for children aged under six.
It will also be retrospective so that any child who has had a cancer diagnosis in the past five years will also be entitled to a medical card.
Extending medical cards to children who have been diagnosed with cancer was one of the recommendations of the clinical advisory group which was set up to look at medical card eligibility.
Announcing the change last night, Primary Care Minister Kathleen Lynch said the move was evidence of a more "compassionate" approach being taken towards awarding discretionary medical cards.
"Effective from tomorrow Wednesday 1 July, medical cards will be issued when a diagnosis of cancer is made for a period of five years.
"Any child under the age of 18 who has had a diagnosis in the past five years will also be awarded a medical card for five years," she said.
"This decision is welcome. It is in line with the more compassionate approach that we have adopted towards awarding discretionary medical cards. I support it and look forward to the HSE implementing it in an efficient and sensitive manner."
Meanwhile, almost 200,000 children under six who are eligible for free GP care have yet to be registered despite the scheme finally getting under way today.
Around 79,000 children were accepted for the scheme by more than 2,000 GPs across the country by yesterday.
However, almost 200,000 other children have yet to be registered meaning their parents are still liable for a private fee if they bring their child to the GP from today.
The HSE said that nationally some 84pc of GPs - 2,036 out of 2,432 - have signed up for the scheme. But 42 GPs in south Tipperary have not joined.
Dr Kevin Kelly, a Clonmel GP, said all under-sixes would be treated and it was a matter for each individual GP who had not signed up to decide if they ask for a fee upfront or advise a parent to contact the HSE.
"The children are entitled to free visits and the responsibility is with the HSE," he added.