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Sunday 21 September 2014

Medical card crisis may require 'wisdom of Solomon' – Varadkar

Published 22/07/2014 | 02:30

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Leo Varadkar
Leo Varadkar

HEALTH Minister Leo Varadkar said the "wisdom of Solomon" may be needed to determine which illnesses automatically merit a medical card – but he will consider "in depth" the report of an expert group on the plan.

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He was commenting after a parents' group said it will continue protesting outside the Department of the Taoiseach today until it receives written assurances that discretionary medical cards will be issued based on illness.

The Our Children's Health Campaign was responding to earlier comments by the new minister, who pointed to the difficulties which will be involved in deciding which illnesses are included and which are left out.

He is awaiting the report of an expert group made up of doctors and patient groups and which is to make recommendations in the autumn, setting out the medical conditions and criteria to be used in deciding who should be automatically entitled to a full medical card,

The group was set up following a decision of the Cabinet sub-committee on health in the wake of the backlash over the removal of discretionary cards.

Peter Fitzpatrick, one of the founders of Our Children's Health Campaign, said Mr Varadkar's comments appeared to suggest "a personal lack of commitment to follow through with implementation of stated government policy, as set out by An Taoiseach Enda Kenny."

Mr Varadkar told the Irish Independent last night: "You would need to have the wisdom of Solomon to decide which illnesses should entitle you automatically to medical cards and which ones should not but if the expert panel can come up with proposals that are fair and affordable I'll consider them in depth."

A spokesman for the minister added that his "sole priority with medical cards is to ensure they are allocated in the fairest and most equitable manner possible, and to end the uncertainty of recent months which caused distress to many individuals and their families.

"However, the expert panel has not yet reported and the minister made clear last week that no decision will be taken before that happens."

Lukewarm

Mr Fitzpatrick said the group agrees that not every illness can be included, but they are looking for the most serious life-limiting conditions to qualify automatically as part of phase one of the new system.

The new minister appeared to be lukewarm at best despite the group having concrete assurances from his predecessor Dr James Reilly. A spokesman for Dr Reilly said comments made "or commitments given – or not given – by him have been recorded by the Department of Health".

It is a matter for the department to comment on what position was taken by the current or previous minister, he added.

The Jack and Jill Children's Foundation's claimed its Facebook page "is on fire once more with comments from parents of children with life-limiting and life-threatening conditions utterly frustrated by the new minister's badly timed and defeatist statement" on the proposal.

The charity's chief executive Jonathan Irwin said he had written to the Taoiseach and the minister seeking clarification on the medical card issue.

Irish Independent

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