Tuesday 16 January 2018

Ryan (2) finally gets medical card following four refusals

Ryan Gilmartin and his mother Nichola. Photo: Ciara Wilkinson
Ryan Gilmartin and his mother Nichola. Photo: Ciara Wilkinson

Elaine Keogh

A mother of a toddler with Down’s Syndrome who was refused a medical card four times, said the news that there had been a change of mind and he is now been awarded one, “is a weight off our shoulders.”

Ryan Gilmartin’s mum Nichola credits the work of the campaign group Our Children’s Health for the change in heart that led to the HSE ringing her to give her the good news.

“I didn’t believe the HSE at first,” she said. 

Two week earlier she had been told he had been refused for what was the fourth time.  Instead the HSE said that it had awarded GP cards not just to Ryan (2) but to Nichola, husband Chris and daughter Zoe (7).

“I asked could we turn the 4 GP cards into one medical card for Ryan but they said no.  I burst into tears at that point,” she explained.

Ryan has a hole in his heart, a floppy larynx, he has febrile convulsions and reflux problems. He gets pneumonia frequently and he is on a monthly high tech vaccine.

She was going to appeal the refusal of the medical card, for the fourth time last week, but didn’t get time because Ryan was “very sick with his chest last week and with the GP every day. He was due to have an operation to have gromits fitted but we had to cancel it because he was so sick.”

As she looked after him last Thursday she put her phone on silent and it was her mum who answered the call that came in at 6 pm and was told it was the HSE calling for Nichola.

“I took the phone and was told that Ryan has been awarded a medical card. I said I won’t believe it until I see it come through the door. I asked the man for the medical card number.  He read it out to me,” explained Nichola from their home near Ballina in county Mayo, the Taoiseach’s constituency.

She said she hung up and was over-joyed. “You would swear we won the Lotto. We know that for the next 3 years we will get all the physiotherapy equipment he needs, all the speech therapy,  all hospital visits and all expensive drugs he needs, looked after.  It is a weight off our shoulders.”

Earlier this month Nichola accompanied Kevin Shortall of Our Children’s Health when they presented more than 60,000 signatures to the Joint Oireachas Committee on Health, as they called for a change in the way  medical cards are allocated.

Kevin welcomed the decision to give Ryan a medical card and said yesterday (Sunday), “it is only right and he should have had one from the very beginning.”

“This proves how difficult the application process as it stands actually is and how there are no medical criteria for the awarding of medical cards.”

The group is pushing for that to change as soon as possible and, “there are moves to change things,” he said referring to the establishment last month of the clinical advisory group which will advise the HSE on eligibility including the burden of an illness.

One of the members of the group is Peter Fitzpatrick who, with Kevin, helped to found Our Children’s Health less than one year ago.

 Nichola said the awarding of the card follows “15 months of printing over 200 pages, hours of phone calls, emails, driving hundreds of miles, sleepless nights of worry and stress whilst caring for our children and working to keep a roof over our heads.”

She said that process of securing the card has  been, “cruel and at times soul destroying.”

“There will be more babies born with Down Syndrome or Cystic Fibrosis and other serious medical illnesses this week and those families will have to go through the process we went through too and that is wrong.  The system has got to change,” she added.

Irish Independent

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