Patients going blind due to op delays, Dáil hears

The case of a man with inflammation of the brain and spinal cord who was denied a medical card has been raised in the Dáil along with claims other sick patients are being refused care.

Patients with cataracts on surgical waiting lists are also going blind due to delays in operations, the Daíl heard.

The two matters were highlighted by Kerry TD Michael Healy-Rae yesterday. He highlighted the case of a man with encephalomyelitis, which causes inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, who has been denied a discretionary medical card for almost half a year.

The Kerry man has seen 22 consultants and has been left with a number of neurological defects, the Daíl heard. The TD said he had written to the medical card processing unit over 11 times. He said this gentleman had applied for a medical card in January, was refused a card and the refusal was upheld In June.

Mr Healy-Rae said: “Another example of his condition is that this man was to run after his child in an emergency situation his rib cage would automatically go into spasm to protect his lungs and actually squeeze his lungs, restricting his breathing.”

He also described how the man in question needs regular botox injections to control the spasms and four times the amount of an anti-epileptic drug to control pain.

Furthermore, last week he received 31 injections in his head. However, the man’s case was not the only one where someone with a long-term illness was denied a medical card.

“This is one example of many cases I have dealt with where more than adequate medical information has been provided to entitle people to a medical card and time and time again they are being refused,” said Mr Healy-Rae.

“How could any right-thinking person have refused this man his medical card?” Answering leader’s questions, Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald said the case was “very distressing”.

She said the amount of discretionary cards in circulation had gone from 52,000 in 2014, when the last government was criticised for trying to reduce numbers, to over 106,000 at the end of May 2016. There was a “humane approach” to such cards,” she said.

However, she also pointed out qualification for a card was means-tested.

Mr Healy-Rae also highlighted waiting times for cataract operations where 461 people are on lists.

He said the maximum waiting time should be 15 months but claimed it was not happening.


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