'I don't know how we are going to cope'
STROKE victim Maria Moran is on 22 tablets a day, and the loss of her medical card has plunged her carer husband into a state of extreme anxiety.
Maria (67), from Stamullen, Gormanston, Co Meath, suffered a severe stroke four years ago, is permanently paralysed on her right side, and cannot speak. Her husband Don, who had to give up work to care for Maria full time, spoke of his fears for the future as the card expires at the end of this month.
"Maria has to take 22 tablets a day. She suffers from a range of illnesses, including diabetes and high blood pressure. I don't know how we will cope."
Former nurse Maria and Don, who retired early from the ESB to look after her, both have modest pensions which put them over the income threshold for the medical card.
The loss of the card means they will have to pay for Maria's drugs and also GP visits. She will also be liable for overnight bed charges, if admitted to public hospital.
The latest development will leave them struggling as they have large bills for basic household outgoings such as heating.
"Maria feels the cold worse then the rest of us because she is not mobile," said Don.
He is now worried that he will also lose his home help, who provides 45 minutes of care daily. Maria also has occasional respite care and attends a day centre every Monday.
"I'm afraid they will go too, now," said Don. He described how he contacted the local health clinic to try to find out if these will also be cut, but could not get any information.
This lack of information contrasts with the recent promise of a practice signalled by the HSE which pledged that people who lose their card will get one-to-one advice on other services.
"They told me the letter cancelling the medical card is in the post. I really don't know what we will do from next month. I was happy plodding away but this is a very worrying setback," said Don.
The HSE and the Department of Health say the legislation on medical cards is clear that qualification is means tested. As a result, some people have been found to be ineligible because their net income is in excess of the means thresholds. The HSE is examining how individuals who are not entitled to a medical card could still receive services that meet their needs.