The numbers with discretionary medical cards has fallen 10,400 since the start of the year, with the greatest share of withdrawals or refusals in the South.
Cork, Kerry, Waterford, and Tipperary South, as well as Carlow, Kilkenny, and Wexford, make up half of the overall reduction, compared to North Dublin and surrounding counties, which make up just 10%.
The latest figures from the HSE show the number receiving discretionary medical cards, based on “undue hardship” caused by a medical condition, rather than income, is down from 63,100 last year to 52,700 in October.
Last month, the Irish Examiner reported the number had dropped to 53,884 in August, meaning it has continued to decline — by more than 1,000 in the past two months.
However, the Taoiseach once again insisted there has been no change of policy.
Enda Kenny, who had argued that the reduction was a result of people were moving to income-based medical cards, yesterday said it was because the system has become centralised.
“The problem we had in this country for so long was that different health areas allocated medical cards based on different criteria. Everybody is now treated equally,” he said.
A breakdown of reductions in discretionary medical cards by HSE area since the start of the year shows:
* Dublin mid-Leinster: 14,661 to 12,444;
* Dublin North-East: 8,348 to 7,341;
* South: 24,863 to 19,802;
* West: 15,254 to 13,146.
In the Dáil, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said: “I cannot understand why the Taoiseach gets up here every day and says there has been no change in policy.
“The move has been on to get rid of discretionary medical cards from the system, and it is dressed up in gobbledygook.”
Mr Kenny was asked why he has not yet met Ronan Woodhouse, 8, from Limerick, and his mother, Noreen Keane, having confirmed to the Irish Examiner that he would be happy to do so after they stood for three hours outside the Fine Gael conference six weeks ago.
“Nobody told me the person involved wanted to meet me,” Mr Kenny said. This was disputed by Ms Keane last night, whose son has Down’s syndrome and 13 medical conditions.
In place of the medical card he has had since birth, Ronan was offered a long-term illness card, which the Taoiseach said covers his medical illnesses.
Ms Keane said it does not cover the cost of medication for any of his 13 conditions and is of no value to them.
They, along with the family of Katie Connolly, 5, from Douglas, Cork, are organising a protest walk from the office of the medical card section of the HSE to the Dáil this Saturday.
Mr Martin said the Government should give seriously ill children medical cards, instead of giving free GP care to under 5s.
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