Parents rally over withdrawal of vital supports

Noreen Keane and her son Ronan Woodhouse, 8, protest over the withdrawal of discretionary medical cards. Pic: David Keane

Around 50 parents of children with disabilities gathered in Cork City over the weekend to protest at the withdrawal of discretionary medical cards by the HSE.

The parents, who staged their protest at Cork City Hall, said many of the children impacted by the withdrawal face serious challenges in their day to day activities.

Among the protestors was Jackie Connolly from Douglas, Cork, whose daughter Katie, 5, was granted a discretionary medical card when she was born. Katie has Down’s syndrome in addition to asthma, juvenile arthritis, a heart condition, and hearing problems. Earlier this year, the HSE wrote to the Connolly family about its plan for Katie’s card.

Ms Connolly said she and her husband Ray’s combined earnings are too high to qualify for a card. However, the HSE previously used its discretion when it came to Katie’s expensive medical bills.

“It is so upsetting,” said Ms Connolly.

“We feel we are being squeezed left right and centre. You are sitting there as a parent thinking would it be better to send her to the doctor or the occupational therapist. We need to keep her up to date. We don’t want her falling behind.

“We have to go to Dublin on Wednesday to Crumlin and it is €75 for the appointment. We can’t keep doing this.”

Ms Connolly works 15 hours a week. She is distressed at the possibility of having to give up work in a bid to qualify for a medical card.

“I don’t know if I will do it or not or if it would even help. I have been putting off doing the figures. I am angry at it all.”

Katie attends speech and language therapy lessons each week as well as occupational therapy appointments. She needs orthotics to help her walk and visits the GP at least once a week. Her medical cards runs out later this week.

Also at the protest was Noreen Keane, mother of Ronan Woodhouse, 8, who has Down’s syndrome, asthma, sight difficulties, thyroid problems, and hearing loss. His medical card was withdrawn in recent months.

The HSE has previously insisted that there has been no alteration in the guidelines for the allocation of medical cards.


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