Sunday 28 December 2014

New unit to help families stripped of medical cards

Promise: Junior Minister Alex White
Promise: Junior Minister Alex White

A special unit to deal directly with families who have lost their discretionary medical card is to be set up by health service bosses within weeks.

The HSE unit will assign individual case officers to advise on the care, services and support available to those who have a severe disability or serious illness.

The promise of such a unit was given to the founders of the Our Children's Health Campaign during a meeting with Junior Health Minister Alex White – who has declared he will contest the leadership of the Labour Party.

The campaign has 60,000 signatures calling for all children diagnosed with a serious illnesses or congenital conditions to a get a full medical card. Mr White reiterated that those who lost their cards cannot have them restored for legal reasons.

Instead, the new unit will have to follow a protocol which is aimed at helping families avoid the red tape and centralised service which they have been enduring up to now.

However, Dr Ray Walley, GP spokesman for the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), claimed the HSE has potential to restore discretionary medical cards to those who lost them.

He said GPs proposed a system in 2010 whereby there would be a link-up between their computers and the HSE medical card list which would allow the doctor to reinstate a card on an emergency basis.

The €37m set aside for free GP care for the under-sixes could be used to fund these discretionary cards, he added.

He told RTE radio's 'This Week' programme that attention also needs to be focused on prescription charges which are leading to some patients not taking their medicines.

Our Children's Health Campaign founders Peter Fitzpatrick and Kevin Shortall said: "If it transpires that the range of services available under the protocol does not meet all the needs as required by those with serious illness, as currently available under the full medical card, that would represent a completely unacceptable situation."

HSE director of primary care, John Hennessy, has already said that the HSE will aim to provide around 2,000 to 4,000 people who have lost the cards with a "package of practical supports".

These could include therapies or medical appliances. Some of those will qualify for the long-term illness scheme.

Irish Independent

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