'It's an absolute fiasco' - Woman infected with Hepatitis C concerned as HSE 'failed to compensate medical bills'
Niamh Cosgrave was a young mother when she discovered she was one of hundreds of pregnant women who received contaminated blood product Anti-D
A woman who was infected with Hepatitis C through the contaminated blood product Anti-D has claimed that the HSE is failing to compensate her medical bills.
Niamh Cosgrave, a former Fine Gael politician, was a young mother when she discovered she was one of hundreds of pregnant women infected with the disease. She was the first to go public, criticising the State’s blood transfusion service and campaigning for a compensations scheme.
Now, Niamh has claimed the HSE have not responded to her requests for medical bill expenses in over five weeks. She said she has hundreds of outstanding medical bills to be paid.
Speaking to Independent.ie, she said she feels like she is "back in the nineties" and has the HSE "on automatic dial". She described the situation as a "fiasco".
"One of the deals with the government was that, if we accepted the tribunal findings, our public healthcare expenses would be taken care of," Niamh said.
"I’ve sent bills for the medical expenses but I have heard nothing.
"I’ve never looked for a massage or anything like that, just the basic medical bills.
"I’ve not looked for any extra therapy or dog sitting, anything I’ve ever asked for has been medical bills and bills from the pharmacy. We were told we would have free public healthcare for the rest of our lives.
"The HSE are on automatic dial. It’s like we’ve gone back in time to the nineties when they were saying we weren’t affected. I’m just pressing redial.
"They are being very nice and very polite, but there is nothing happening.
"I’ve sent in all my bills and they say I need to explain them all, I’ve explained them all, I’ve done everything but I haven’t heard back.
"I just get through to a secretary who says they’ll call me back."
"This is an absolute fiasco and it’s creating havoc," she added.
Niamh, who now lives in France, said there has never been an issue with the expenses before last month.
She said she is now growing concerned about booking medical appointments, because she is not sure if she will be reimbursed. Niamh said she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and is concerned that nobody is returning her calls.
"I’ve had a hernia problem which is directly related to the Hepatitis C, but I’m afraid to make an appointment with the specialist because I don’t know if I’ll get the money for it," she said.
"I have post-traumatic stress disorder and very little medical care.
"It does mean constant medication, I’ve been trying different medications.
"I haven’t left my home for four months unless I’m with someone."
She continued; "The biggest scare is that nobody is answering my calls.
"That starts to panic me and starts the depression."
Niamh said her new medication is "quite expensive" but it has made an instant improvement to her lifestyle.
"The new medication is quite expensive but it’s working, gets me out of bed and it gets me eating. I can’t continue like this. The HSE should be paying the bills."
Niamh said Hepatitis C sufferers "need more help" on a daily basis and said the results of her diagnosis are "not just physical".
"We do need more help, we’re questioned on everything," she said of the women who received the infectious Anti-D blood product.
"It’s not just the physical, it has brought about depression, how many broken marriages, the countless women and families who have had suicides that were never linked to Hepatitis C.
"I know personally of one suicide because they couldn’t bear the fight anymore.
"I think the HSE think its old news, and we’ve just been forgotten about."
Niamh explains that each Hepatitis C patient sends their medical bills to their liaison officer.
Niamh said her own liaison officer has "always been fantastic", but she needs answers from the HSE.
In a response issued to Independent.ie, the Hepatitis C Tribunal said that the system is usually "prompt" but can sometimes be delayed. They explained that they are "responsible for the payment of compensation to persons infected with hepatitis C through blood and blood products and is operated completely separately and independently from the HSE."
They explained that people who were infected with hepatitis C through contaminated blood and blood products are entitled to a "range of healthcare services without charge under the terms of the Health (Amendment) Act 1996 and each eligible person is provided with a Health (Amendment) Act card (HAA card) which they use when accessing services."
They continued: "Most services can be availed of through the person presenting their HAA card to the service provider who in turn then claims payment for the service directly from the HSE. Some HAA cardholders however chose to pay for the services to which they are entitled to themselves and have the costs reimbursed to them by the HSE by submitting receipts and other supporting information required to their designated Hepatitis C Liaison Officer."
The HSE explained that this system is "usually quite prompt" but sometimes further clarification is needed and so payment can be delayed.
They added that liaison officers "do ensure that the refunds to HAA cardholders are prioritised."