Thursday 23 May 2019

I feel betrayed by the State after paying tax all my life

DISGRACE: Patients are forced to dip into savings for drugs
DISGRACE: Patients are forced to dip into savings for drugs

Allison Bray

They live at opposite ends of the country, are from different generations and have little in common except they have been in constant pain for years and had to dip into their meagre savings to get the medical ball rolling after reaching the breaking point.

But David O'Mahony, a 77-year-old grandfather from Raheny, north Dublin and Jacqui Finnan, a 49-year-old mother and carer, from Tipperary, share similar stories.

Both have paid taxes all their lives yet feel betrayed by the State which they feel has turned its back on them when they needed it most.

Mr O'Mahony, who supported his wife and family working for 40 years as a sales representative, was diagnosed five years ago with osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia, which leaves him in constant pain.

As a public healthcare patient, he was placed on a waiting list to get an initial assessment by a rheumatologist, who would be the first port of call to outline a treatment/management programme for him.

Except that was more than 18 months ago and after being in constant pain, he couldn't take it anymore.

"So I saved up to go private," he said.

Despite living on a modest pension, his medical card was revoked because he was deemed to be above the means-tested threshold so he had to spend about €300 to see a specialist.

He now pays up to €70 out of his own pocket each month for anti-inflammatory medication as well as injections, which cost about €120 each.

But he feels utterly betrayed that after paying taxes his entire working life, when he needed something back from the State, the State wasn't there for him.

"I'm in constant pain. The medicine is quite expensive and yet I get no help from the Government," he told the Sunday Independent.

"It seems the more honest you are in this country, you're screwed," he said.

Despite his age and his frailty, he took his anger to the gates of Leinster House last week to join other arthritis sufferers who protested outside Government buildings, urging the HSE to hire at least a dozen more rheumatologists to whittle down the current waiting list of 12,500 patients, 500 of which are children.

"I've gotten very narky in my old age," he said. "But there are some terrible stupid things going on. I'm just waiting for them to come around to the door looking for my vote," he said of the upcoming election.

Ms Finnan, a former independent councillor and mayor of Tipperary town, was also among the protesters and feels terribly let down by the Government.

"There was so much austerity put upon the people and we're all so fed up, especially with the health system," she said.

The mother-of-three also suffers from osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia and has been waiting since November 2014 for an initial appointment with a rheumatologist.

But like Mr O'Mahony, the constant pain proved too much and she was forced to go private last September, paying around €800 for MRI scans and doctors fees to manage her condition, which she said has worsened considerably since her diagnosis.

She also has no medical card and was forced to dip into the family savings, even though her husband, who is the main breadwinner is on a modest income as a council worker and she can no longer work part-time as a carer due to the debilitating pain.

She is still waiting to see a specialist, but was told the earliest possible date she may be seen as public patient is between August and the end of December - and even then there is no guarantee.

So in the meantime, she continues to suffer. But she refuses to suffer in silence.

"I've been off work now for four months due to the pain and the longer I'm left waiting the worse I am," she said.

"People like myself have no medical card or health insurance and they've just hung us out to dry," she said.

"But my main concern is that people's voices are heard."

-Allison Bray

Sunday Independent

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