Friday 24 March 2017

Editorial: Election or no election, children must come first

Earlier this year, Taoiseach Enda Kenny promised to take a more 'hands-on' approach to the health budget, which has suffered a series of catastrophic over-runs.
Earlier this year, Taoiseach Enda Kenny promised to take a more 'hands-on' approach to the health budget, which has suffered a series of catastrophic over-runs.

After Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore described medical card reviews as akin to "harassment" the Government is now promising to handle the debacle differently and with more sensitivity. Unfortunately, they won't get much credit for this and this would appear to have more to do with the politics of Friday's looming election and the backlash they are getting on the doorsteps than any other consideration.

It is ironic that as it moves to introduce free GP care for the under sixes, a whole raft of seriously ill children, some suffering from life-threatening conditions, are having their medical cards taken from them, causing untold distress to parents and families. The National Association of General Practitioners said yesterday that finance that is currently ring-fenced for the free GP care for under sixes should immediately be freed up so that the so-called discretionary medical cards are not removed from very sick children.

But the bottom line is that people – including children – are losing their medical cards because the system has been centralised, the 'discretionary' element has been removed and with cutbacks in the health budget there is less money for health and medical cards. It seems purely electoral politics for the Government to turn around now and blame HSE employees for implementing what is, after all, government policy.

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