Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has described the cabinet’s belated action on returning some discretionary medical cards as ‘a fiasco’ and a ‘partial concession to the medical card debacle.’
He has also criticised the Taoiseach’s claim, on RTE’s ‘Meaning of Life’ programme last night that the problem arose because ‘the computer doesn't have nature.’
Mr. Adams said:
“It is time that the Taoiseach accepted that the medical card debacle arose because of bad decisions taken by the Cabinet. The Cabinet’s response to this has been shambolic and cruel, and still lacks transparency and clarity. The Taoiseach absolve himself of responsibility for what has happened by blaming computers or others.
To describe the distressing impact of government policy on thousands of vulnerable families as ‘unintended consequences’ is a cynical attempt to excuse the inexcusable.
Many citizens still don’t know if they or their children will have their withdrawn medical cards returned and there is uncertainty surrounding new applicants.
Only those who undertook an eligibility review between July 2011 and May 2014 and had their discretionary medical card withdrawn on foot of a completed eligibility review, will have these returned. This clear U-turn is an admission by the government that the original Cabinet decision was wrong. Despite this the government refuses to compensate those who have had to cover the cost of their healthcare during this period.
Moreover, those who did not seek a review of the decision to withdraw their card, are left outside the scheme, even though they may well have had good reason for not appealing.
While much of the criticism has understandably been levelled at Minister Reilly the Taoiseach has robustly defended his Minister and the decisions that he has introduced.
The Sinn Féin leader said:
“For three years the Minister for Health and the Taoiseach repeatedly told the Dáil that there was no change to the rule governing the allocation of medical cards.
“Opposition members provided countless distressing examples in the Dáil and in private correspondence to the Taoiseach, of children and adults suffering terminal illnesses and serious disabilities, losing their medical cards. But the government remained unmoved.
“Only with the election days off and with medical cards emerging as a significant issue on the doorstep, did Fine Gael and Labour TDs discover their conscience and indications emerged of a possible U-turn in policy.
“The impact of government policy has been to inflict unnecessary hardship and huge mental, medical and economic distress on patients and their families.
“This was acknowledged by the HSE’s National Director of Primary Care, John Hennessy. He said the removal of discretionary medical cards from some patients has been ‘indefensible.’ Mr. Hennessy also said that the removal of medical cards is causing ‘unnecessary levels of anxiety and frustration for families, particularly families dealing with serious disability.’”
Concluding Gerry Adams said:
“Government healthcare policy is determined by income not medical need.
“This is the fundamental flaw in government policy. Until this is changed disadvantaged and low and middle income citizens will continue to bear the brunt of an inequitable health care system not fit for purpose; inadequately funded and poorly led and managed.
“Healthcare policy needs to change. Sick children and adults should have access to a healthcare system funded by direct taxation on the basis of health need not personal wealth.”