Wednesday 13 December 2017

Magdalene Laundry survivors to have access to a GP of their choice under government scheme

Mark O’Regan

HUNDREDS of Magdalene Laundry survivors will have access to a GP of their choice under the government's redress scheme.

It has been agreed that women will have the option of using a private GP, or one who has a contract with the HSE.

Minister for Justice and Reform Frances Fitzgerald also said the legislation will now allow for chiropody and physiotherapy services which were not originally provided for in the Act.

Addressing the Dail Justice Committee this afternoon, she stressed it was never her intention to restrict the choice of general practitioner for the women concerned.

“I’m aware many of the women have a medical card and they may wish to stay with their GP,'' she said.

She pointed out the system will now allow women to remain with their private GP - even if the doctor involved is one of the small number who do not have a HSE contract.

The Minister also said the possibility of providing other ''complementary therapies'' will be examined.

“This would be a separate scheme run on an administrative basis, rather than a statutory basis. I will examine that and come up with some proposals within the Department.

''Obviously it will have to be on a limited basis and carefully laid out as to what would be available.”

The women will also have access to ''advocates'' who will help them access relevant schemes.

Funding has been provided for the operation of this scheme in the UK.

The Redress for Women Resident in Certain Institutions Bill 2014, sets out to provide for free health services to be made available to those who were resident in Magdalene laundries, and certain other institutions.

A report on the Laundries - the last of which closed in 1996 - found the state was directly involved in their operation.

It concluded that just over one quarter of referrals were made by or facilitated by the state.

Women were sent there by court order, or by gardai and social services, or under supervision after leaving industrial or reformatory schools.

An estimated 11,500 women passed through ten institutions between 1922 and 1996.

The report of the Inter-Departmental Committee concluded the environment in the laundries was harsh and said the women were involved in physically demanding work.

This had a traumatic and lasting impact on some of those who worked in the laundries.

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