Progress on medical cards welcomed by Ó Caoláin
Speaking following his participation in the visit by members of the Oireachtas Health and Children Committee to the medical card applications centre in Finglas, Sinn Féin Health and Children spokesperson, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD welcomed progress made in addressing difficulties being experienced by applicants. He said:
“Many medical card holders whose cards are being reviewed and new applicants for medical cards have been experiencing serious difficulties since the centralisation of the process in Finglas last July.
“All Oireachtas members are aware of this from the many representations we receive from our constituents. For that reason it was necessary for Committee members to visit the centre to try to ascertain the root of the problems and how they can be overcome.
“I welcome the announcement in advance of our visit that GPs are to be given new powers that should help ease the process for medical card holders.
“GPs will be able to reinstate a patient where eligibility has been removed in error, e.g. due to a lack of response to the review process because of a change of address. They can extend eligibility for a year where a patient has lost eligibility because he or she could not engage in the review process due to a medical condition or social circumstances. GPs will also be able to extend medical card entitlement to a new baby in a family.
“These changes are positive and are clearly a result of patients and their elected representatives raising issues since the centralisation process began. However, more needs to be done. I am especially concerned at the position of people with terminal illnesses and long-term/lifetime conditions who are compelled to undergo the review process. The discretion for GPs should be extended to allow them to renew medical cards for these patients.
“With colleagues on the Health Committee, I will continue to press for improvements in this service.”