Families are still waiting for medical card return
A SMALL number of people who had their discretionary medical cards or GP cards withdrawn over the past two years are still waiting for their return, it was confirmed.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) imposed its own deadline of mid-July to return the cards controversially removed after review between July 2011 and the end of May this year.
At the time it was believed that around 15,000 were due to have the cards returned. However, this is now seen an over-estimate.
But a spokeswoman said that 10,825 have been given back and a small number are still outstanding.
They were returned following the controversy of the review of discretionary cards which led to a climbdown by the Government.
The HSE spokeswoman said that as the files have been reviewed in recent weeks it has become clear that some individuals, included in the original estimate, are no longer ill.
Some have had cards restored to one member of the family - as opposed to the entire family. Others have emigrated and some have passed away.
Fianna Fail spokesman on education Charlie McConalogue warned that families of schoolchildren who may be among those who have yet to have the card returned are now facing extra transport costs. He said: "Families are being faced with substantial school transport bills, some as high as €650, because the HSE has failed to return discretionary medical cards on time.
"Families with valid medical cards have fees for the school transport scheme waived. However, because of delays in the system, many are now being asked to pay these transport costs."
He said that Bus Eireann has informed him that it will refund any family that has to pay the fees now if their discretionary medical card is later returned.
"However for families who have limited means of income this is a very high cost to be imposed on them. This is already an extremely expensive time of year, with uniform and book costs putting extra pressure on already hard pressed families.
"This has the potential to cause significant problems for families who have had a discretionary medical card withdrawn, as many are already facing substantial medical bills and will find it difficult to find the money for this additional cost,"he added.
Meanwhile, the Our Children's Health group, which is campaigning for medical cards for all children with a serious illness, are continuing to protest several days a week outside Government Buildings. They want firm assurances that the automatic entitlement will be in place from autumn.