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Game of cards

I would like to draw the attention of your readers who hold medical cards to an issue which may affect them, if it has not already done so.

As GPs, we have noticed in the last number of months that the processing of new applications and more importantly the renewal of a previously held medical card is meeting with excessive delay.

This has been the case since these issues have been centralised at the HSE's Primary Care Reimbursement Service (PCRS) but has been more noticeable in the last few months.

Many card holders are unaware that their card has been withdrawn/not renewed or that new babies have not been added.

Some 16-year-olds have been taken off cover from the time of their 16th birthday. Although their cards state a valid date into the future, the card has been withdrawn unilaterally.

The PCRS does not seem to be informing patients of their change of status.

The unfortunate patient finds out for the first time when they attend our surgeries for care, leaving us as GPs with the unhappy task of advising them that they no longer have a valid card and are now essentially private patients, although most are clearly entitled to care.

These delays are totally unacceptable for the patients, but also for GPs, who are not paid for patients who are no longer on our lists yet there seems to be a suggestion that we continue to provide medical services free of charge to patients, pending the PCRS getting the job done.

This is an untenable situation and one whose resolution lies squarely with the PCRS/HSE and over which we as GPs have no control.

I would call on all medical card holders to check with the HSE that their cards are valid and active and ensure that they follow the progress of medical card renewals regularly.

Dr Helen O'Neill GP

Dunboyne, Co Meath