James Reilly promises medical card solution
PROPOSALS aimed at addressing the loss of thousands of discretionary medical cards by people with life-long disabilities and serious illnesses will be brought before the Cabinet's sub-committee on health tomorrow.
But Health Minister James Reilly declined to elaborate on the proposals and whether it will mean those who lost cards will have them restored.
However, he insisted it will not mean sacrificing the plan to extend free GP care to all children under six.
"It is not an either/or situation. Both things will be done," said Dr Reilly.
"I want this fixed for people with Down Syndrome, multiple sclerosis or motor neurone disease. I want to fix it, not to gratify any politicians, including myself."
Dr Reilly was speaking in the wake of the bitter criticism levelled against the Government by backbenchers and failed election candidates who said the handling of the medical card furore had cost votes.
"I have been concerned about this issue for quite some time. There was a meeting of the Cabinet sub-committee on health last week and there is a further meeting this Thursday," he said.
"Nobody is happy with the fact that people with life-long conditions or illnesses that are deteriorating have medical cards taken off them.
Dr Reilly was speaking after addressing doctors attending a conference on acute medicine at the Royal College of Physicians.
Meanwhile, GPs who appeared before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children criticised the failure of the HSE to contact them before cancelling a patient's medical card.
Dr Ray Walley, GP spokesman for the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), said they asked that a health official check with a patient's doctor if there were concerns about cancelling a card.
It would allow the doctor to appeal for a card to be extended for another three months to allow further assessment.
The committee is now to go back to the HSE to ask that this system be put in place.
Dr Walley said the doctors' union is in "talks about talks" on the introduction of free GP care for the under-sixes.
He described the talks as useful, but did not elaborate.
Meanwhile, the High Court was told yesterday that a settlement may be announced today in a dispute between the Competition Authority and IMO arising from fee cuts announced last year.