Sunday 23 November 2014

Ten faces: The victims of the Government's medical card cuts

Published 20/05/2014 | 12:32

The faces behind the medical card cuts

Aoife Keogh (3), brain tumour:

Carly Keogh said that her little daughter Aoife was diagnosed with a brain tumour last May, and they had been issued a medical card to assist with her treatment a short time later.

She said she was relieved that her three-year-old had received the card for two years to cover the duration of her treatment as the application process is "stressful".

However, she said: "Six months later I received a review form for it, and it was a bit odd."

"They had all of our details and the back-up documentation, so I wrote them a letter in December to explain that and told them that it was quite stressful at the moment, and that I could apply again if they really needed it. In January we received a letter to say that we had it up until June 2015."

However, she was left confused in April when she was informed by her pharmacist that the card was no longer valid. The mother of three said that the card was "stopped without warning".

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Aoife and Carly Keogh

Katie Connolly (6), Down Syndrome:

Little Katie Connolly - who has Down syndrome but also lives with asthma, juvenile arthritis and a heart condition - had her discretionary medical card taken from her last June after it went up for renewal for the third time.

Her mother Jackie said that the young girl was given a medical card shortly after birth, but that she was asked to renew it twice since.

Last year the young girl had it taken from her, despite the fact that she had just been diagnosed with painful juvenile arthritis and could have to visit her GP at least once per month, as well as have occupational and speech and language therapy sessions.

"At the time we didn't realise how much it was going to impact upon us, but it has impacted upon us in a huge way," her mother said.

Her annual medical bill could amount to €7,000 for the year without the card.

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Katie Connolly

Charlotte Sheehan (1), Down Syndrome:

Charlotte’s dad Eoghan wrote an open plea to Health Minister James Reilly to give his one-year-old daughter back her medical card.

Charlotte had open heart surgery last year and she depends on a daily mixture of ‘high tech’ medications for her survival.

Eoghan wrote: “The HSE have been carrying out a review that you have instigated of her medical card since the middle of December 2013.”

“This review is ongoing and her card has expired because of the length of time this review is taking. The review office periodically drip feeds requests for additional information in a manner that seems very much like a deliberate effort to frustrate people like ourselves out of the process. My replies are always detailed and timely.”

“Charlotte had open heart surgery in Crumlin to repair an AVSD in March 2013, in addition to this she has severe pulmonary hypertension along with a number of other conditions. She depends on a daily mixture of ‘high tech’ medications for her survival. All her daily feeds are given via a PEG feeding tube as she is unable to take any food orally.”

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Charlotte Sheehan

Eric Fitzpatrick (10 months):

Dubliner Mark Fitzpatrick said he was refused a medical card for his son Eric after being told he earns €70 a week too much to qualify.

His 10-month-old baby was offered a GP visit card instead, but Mr Fitzpatrick insists that by his calculations, Eric should get a medical card.

The Donaghmede man believes that a GP visit card will not be sufficient in assisting his young son's medical needs.

"Eric got a diagnosis at 10 weeks old. It's a rare form of epilepsy that will cause very weak muscle tone, so chances are he will never walk or talk.

"He needs 24-hour care, so his mother Wendy had to give up work," he said.

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Eric Fitzpatrick

Ben Pretorius (7), rare form of epilepsy

Ben’s mother Dianna Ross was told last year that his medical card was up for renewal and would expire this February.

Ben, who has been seriously ill since birth, was only last week diagnosed as suffering from a rare form of epilepsy.

"He needs 24-hour care," she said. "He can't walk, can't talk, and he can't feed himself. He depends on us for everything."

She quit work to become his full-time carer, and described her battle to secure her son a medical card as "a nightmare".

"He was diagnosed with epilepsy first when he was a baby. They gave us a long-term illness card until he was three.

"When he was five, they sent out the forms for renewal.”

"I sent them back, and they refused me. I was sent a GP- visit card in the post.”

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Adrian Pretorius and wife Dianna Ross, with their sons Ben and Josh at home in Clonsilla.

Elaine Kelly (37), secondary breast cancer

Elaine Kelly is battling secondary breast cancer, after first being diagnosed in 2012.

She has gone through the rigorous medical card application process twice within 16 months.

Shortly after her initial diagnosis she applied for a medical card and was refused, but was later issued a discretionary card for two years valid until this September.

"I received a letter last December saying that they were reviewing the medical card, and that I was to fill out a full application form and that I was to complete everything and get copies of statements," Ms Kelly said.

She undertook the lengthy, stressful process again and after several exchanges requesting further details, she was just recently informed that her card would expire at the end of this month.

"I don't understand why it is that they are asking somebody who has secondary breast cancer – a terminal illness and (with) a shorter lifespan – to have their medical card reviewed," she said.

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Elaine Kelly has gone through the rigorous medical card application process twice within 16 months

 

Louise Shortall (8), leukemia:

Kevin Shortall and wife Tracey have been trying to secure a long-term medical card for their cancer- stricken daughter Louise.

Louise (8) was only recently issued a year-long medical card, despite being diagnosed with leukaemia in 2012.

Louise’s uncle Peter Fitzpatrick said: "The simple fact is, no matter how ill, no matter how severe a condition your child has, there is no legal entitlement to a medical card in Ireland unless your circumstances meet the terms of a crude, outdated means test.

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Tracey and Kevin Shortall with their daughter Louise, age 8, who has leukaemia

Alexander Coyle (10), Mowat Wilson Syndrome:

Alexander, who lives in Bray, Co Wicklow, is the first person in Ireland to be diagnosed with Mowat Wilson Syndrome.

His parents Annette and Declan highlighted their young son's predicament online and spoke of the pressures they face.

Alexander can suffer life-threatening seizures and his parents were told during his recent hospitalisation, when he was admitted to intensive care, that he was in danger of not surviving.

His father Declan said: "The strength of a nation is how they look after their most vulnerable. If this is what the nation has become, it is just appalling."

The family estimates it will cost them in the region of €1,100 a month to provide Alexander with the basics, such as syringes, feeding equipment and nappies.

Annette said the card when the card was removed the HSE letter suggested the family should look at applying for a long-term illness card, which would allow Alexander free medication and medical supplies.

They would still have to pay for GP visits.

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Alexander Coyle

James Mullen (59), the longest known living survivors of chronic myeloid leukaemia in Europe:

Mr Mullen, a cancer survivor, has revealed he was only informed his medical card had been cancelled after visiting his chemist two months ago to collect a regular prescription.

He has still had no direct contact from the HSE.

One of the longest known living survivors of chronic myeloid leukaemia in Europe, the father of four battled the disease in 1992 and received a life-saving bone marrow transplant in 1993.

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James Mullen

Penny Moran, (almost 15 months old), rare illness:

Penny, who is almost 15 months old, was diagnosed with a rare condition – it is thought that there are just 10 known cases in the world.

 

Penny’s father Thomas has been waiting since August to find out if his daughter will be issued the medical card or not.

"Penny doesn't walk or crawl, she can't sit up, and it affects her eating. We have been told that she is in the developmental stages of a four-month-old. She can choke on her food, so solids are just not an option."

Penny has at least eight doctor's appointments per month, and has to complete almost two hours of physiotherapy per day.

The essential medical equipment that she needs now could cost the family in excess of €10,000 without the medical card.

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Penny with her big sister Lucy

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