Medical card is refused to spina bifida girl Sophie

Sophie Biggins

By Elaine Keogh

A WOMAN whose daughter has spina bifida has slammed the HSE's refusal to give the family a medical card as disgraceful.

Seven-year-old Sophie Biggins, from Swords, who also has hydrocephalus, uses a wheelchair and needs regular medical treatment.

She has been refused a medical card on three occasions, leaving her hard-pressed family to pay every time Sophie needs to visit the GP.

Her mother, Deborah, said they are among a number of families who have contacted advocacy group Our Children's Health, which has said that on average two parents a week seek its help over difficulties with the medical card process.


She and her husband, Gerard, have four children and a big mortgage and are furious at the repeated refusals of a medical card for Sophie.

"I want to ask the Minister for Health who the stranger is who writes letters of refusal to me," said Ms Biggins.

"There's no explanation as to why my daughter can't have a medical card. Someone stamps it and sends it back to me and I get no help at all.

"Sophie's operations and treatment at Temple Street hospital are free until she is 18 but she suffers from urinary tract infections a lot and each visit to the GP is €55.

"She doesn't even have a free GP card. It's disgraceful."

Ms Biggins said she would rather have a GP medical card for Sophie than the free GP care for under-sixes promised by the Government which her younger daughter Hollie (3) will benefit from.

"My husband works and we have a heavy mortgage and bills," she said. "We don't want a card for any of the other children, just for Sophie. Just a GP visit card would mean I don't have to pay every time she is at the doctor.

"Just two weeks ago she had pains and I brought her to the GP and it was €55 for four minutes.

"I just wonder who makes the decisions? All I get back is a letter saying we don't meet the criteria. They don't see what goes on here, they don't see her splints or her wheelchair.

"The hardest part is you are dealing with a sick child and the last thing you need is to be filling out forms."

An HSE spokesperson said they could not comment on individual cases.

They said that an expert group on medical card eligibility recommended that a financial means assessment should remain the primary form of assessment for medical card eligibility.


"Every effort is made to apply discretion whenever possible and to provide supports to those dealing with a serious illness," said the spokesperson.

"However, given the financial means assessment, this is not always possible for those in the highest income brackets."

Our Children's Health co-founder Kevin Shortall yesterday highlighted two other cases - one where 16-month-old Ryan Gilmartin who has Down Syndrome and a hole in his heart was denied a medical card three times, and that of a seven-year-old boy with leukaemia who was also refused.