Thursday 19 October 2017

Magdalene women win battle for GP choice

Frances Fitzgerald,TD,the Minister for Justice and Equality
Frances Fitzgerald,TD,the Minister for Justice and Equality
Mark O'Regan

Mark O'Regan

HUNDREDS of Magdalene Laundry survivors have won the right to access a GP of their choice under the Government's redress scheme.

It has been agreed that women will have the option of using a private GP, or one who has a contract with the HSE.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald stressed it was never her intention to restrict the choice of general practitioner for the women concerned.

"I'm aware many of the women have a medical card and they may wish to stay with their GP," she said.

Addressing the Dail Justice Committee, she pointed out the system will now allow women to remain with their private GP - even if the doctor involved is one of the small number who do not have a HSE contract.

She also said legislation will now allow for chiropody and physiotherapy services, which were not originally provided for in the act.

Ms Fitzgerald also said the possibility of providing other "complementary therapies" will be examined.

"This would be a separate scheme run on an administrative basis, rather than a statutory basis. I will examine that and come up with some proposals within the department.

"Obviously, it will have to be on a limited basis and carefully laid out as to what would be available."

Traumatic

The women will also have access to "advocates" who will help them access relevant schemes. Funding has also been provided for the operation of this scheme in the UK.

The Redress for Women Resident in Certain Institutions Bill 2014, sets out to provide free health services for those who were resident in Magdalene laundries, as well as certain other institutions.

A report on the Magdalene Laundries - the last of which closed in 1996 - found the State was directly involved in their operation.

It concluded that just over one-quarter of the referrals were made or facilitated by the State.

Women were sent there by court order, by gardai and social services, or under supervision after leaving industrial or reformatory schools.

An estimated 11,500 women passed through 10 institutions between 1922 and 1996.

The report of the Inter-Departmental Committee concluded the environment in the laundries was harsh and said the women were involved in physically demanding work.

This had a traumatic and lasting impact on those who worked in the laundries.

Irish Independent

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