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Martin Ferris TD highlights cost of withdrawing medical cards

14 May, 2014 - by Martin Ferris TD


Speaking in the Dáil tonight on Sinn Féin’s motion to stop cuts in discretionary medical cards, the party’s TD for Kerry North West Limerick, Martin Ferris TD said:

“What is the definition around the Fine Gael and Labour cabinet table of a hard case? Would it be, for example, a couple in my own constituency?  

“She has asthma. He has a heart condition and high blood pressure. They had their cards taken away and during every one of the months it took to get them back, they had to make hard decisions.

“What decision was that? It was which of them would get their medication and which of them would hope for the best, as they could not afford to fill the prescriptions for both of them.

“They came to the decision that her inhalers were the most important. He ended up in hospital with a stroke, as he had gone without his blood thinning medication for so long.

“Would that be a hard case, minister? Would that be a case that is causing concern? Leaving aside human compassion and decency, it is saving no one any money that instead of giving the man his medication, the health service now has the greater cost and use of resources of treating him in hospital for a stroke.”

ENDS

Text of speech by Martin Ferris TD on private members’ business on discretionary medical cards – check against delivery

 

It seems that nowadays I am standing up here more often and talking, even pleading, with ministers about the distress I am seeing in my constituency and in the people who approach me for help.

There is a single, clear message coming from this government: if you are in trouble, you are on your own.

If your mother needs care, if your child has special needs, if you have lost your job, if you have an accident, if your child gets into trouble, whatever it is, don’t come looking for support or help from this government.

No. If you have a problem you can pay to resolve it, or go away, even if that problem is a long-term, terminal, painful or immobilising medical condition or disease.

If you have no money to pay - then tough, this government is about balancing books, the bible according to the Troika, and after that - not humanity, not solidarity, not compassion, not ordinary human decency comes into it.

The minister, the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste have stood here in this house and told us, again and again, that there was no change in criteria for the issuing (or more commonly the withdrawal) of discretionary medical cards, even though we know that in 2009 the rate of discretionary medical cards was 1 in 18, but last year it had dropped to 1 in 33.

The minister knows this too and it is shame upon shame on him. As the election campaign progressed over the past few weeks and Fine Gael and Labour canvassers had the temerity to knock on people’s doors, they were told again and again of the suffering the withdrawal of medical cards was causing.

 

They got windy then and James Reilly got roasted at a Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting. That’s when we began to hear about a third tier and the amazing discovery by the Minister that what he called “some hard cases” which were causing “concern” and then referred to “administrative” problems.

 

I’d love to know what he calls a “hard case”. What is the definition around the Fine Gael and Labour cabinet table of a hard case? Would it be, for example, like a couple in my own constituency.  She has asthma. He has a heart condition and high blood pressure. They had their cards taken away and during every one of the months it took to get them back, they had to make hard decisions.

What decision was that? It was which of them would get their medication and which of them would hope for the best, as they could not afford to fill the prescriptions for both of them.

 

 

They came to the decision that her inhalers were the most important. He ended up in hospital with a stroke as he had gone without his blood thinning medication for so long.

Would that be a hard case, minister? Would that be a case that is causing concern? Leaving aside human compassion and decency, it is saving no one any money that instead of giving the man his medication, the health service now has the greater cost and use of resources of treating him in hospital for a stroke.

There is not a TD in this house or a canvasser going from door to door that has not heard about the suffering, hardship and stress that this is causing.

 

In the circumstances, I see how James Reilly was quoted in the Irish Examiner as saying “My main concern is two-fold — number one, that people get the care they need but number two, to protect the taxpayer.”

To protect the taxpayer against what Minister?

Do you really expect us to believe that people are feigning illness to get a medical card, in order to pull off some sort of a scam?

In your anxiety to root out some kind of imaginary scam on behalf of the taxpayer, you have ignored the advice of those in the front line of the health service: the family doctor, the local GP, the men and women who are calling again and again for the resources to run a proper primary care service.

Best practise internationally, expert reports and recommendations and simple cop on, indicates that a properly funded and resourced primary care service is the least expensive and most efficient way to keep your population healthy. It is the way to go to stop people getting seriously ill and the most effective vehicle for health promotion.

 

It is the cheapest way by far, in money and in resources to achieve a healthy population. GPs are banging their heads against that particular wall for years, begging to be properly supported to provide that service and still, Minister Reilly goes on about protecting the taxpayer from people getting medical cards, while ignoring those pleas.

The essence of this motion is respect, compassion, consultation and transparency. I urge all members to support it.   

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