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Thursday 14 December 2017

Outsourcing to German company blamed for 'bizarre' medical card judgments

Independent TD Clare Daly
Independent TD Clare Daly

Eilish O'Regan, Gareth Morgan and Louise Hogan

THE Health Service Executive is outsourcing some of the medical card administration to a German company – a move which may be responsible for some "bizarre judgments", the Dail was told last night.

Some of the functions of the medical section have been outsourced to the billing and payment services company Arvato Finance, which has an operation in Clontarf in north Dublin, TDs were told.

Dublin North TD Clare Daly asked Junior Health Minister Alex White: "Is it the case that a German company Arvato is now reviewing the medical card situation?

"Maybe that's one of the reasons we've been getting bizarre judgments. Because the people charged with making those decisions haven't been getting the proper training and wages."

The claim was made during a debate on the ongoing controversy over the fall in discretionary medical cards.

Earlier, Taoiseach Enda Kenny admitted that "nobody should be asked whether their child still has Down Syndrome or not" in a bid to keep their medical card.

Mr Kenny was harangued in the Dail over the tens of thousands of medical cards that have been taken from people over the past three years.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said 31,000 discretionary medical cards "have been taken from very sick children and people with life limiting, life threatening and terminal conditions".

He highlighted the case of four-year-old Ben Hughes from Trim, Co Meath, whose story was revealed by the Irish Independent on Monday.

His mother Amanda Hughes told how she was asked to prove her son "still had Down Syndrome" in a battle to keep his medical card.

Responding to Mr Martin, the Taoiseach said: "Nobody should be asked the question: 'Is your child still Down Syndrome or not?'.

Speaking about the medical card issue in general, Mr Kenny added: "There is not an attempt here to show lack of understanding, compassion or consideration for people who have these challenges. It is a question of getting a system that is fair."

Meanwhile, Health Minister James Reilly added there had been a lot of disparity countrywide in the numbers of cards distributed.

"That is not a fair transparent system, and not one we could continue to stand over," he said.

He admitted that due to the centralisation of the medical card scheme, it was "not satisfactory" that people were no longer being informed of the other services available to them if they lose their card.

Dr Reilly said he remains determined to stay at the helm of the embattled Health Department, but admits his "destiny" lies in the Taoiseach's hands.

Following a meeting at the Oberstown Campus for young offenders in north Dublin, alongside the new Minister for Children Charlie Flanagan, Dr Reilly said rumours of his "resignation have been greatly exaggerated".

The former Lusk GP insisted he planned to remain in the difficult health portfolio for the lifetime of the coalition Government.

"That would be my intention but I am not in control of my destiny in all these matters – there are large buses in Dublin when I cross the street that could see me out," he quipped.

Mr Reilly pulled out of addressing last week's annual conference of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation citing ill health.

"I want to apologise to all the people we had made arrangements with," Dr Reilly said yesterday.

Irish Independent

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