The Irish Prison Service (IPS) has been forced to clarify a claim by its director general that all prisoners are to be issued with medical cards on the day they leave prison, under a new agreement with the HSE.
Speaking at a conference in Cork, IPS director general Michael Donnellan said that, under the agreement, the cards would be automatically issued to all prisoners once they are released. He said the process had already begun at Cork Prison, where it would be tested “for the next few weeks” but he confirmed “it is going nationwide”.
“So, just over the last few months we’ve been negotiating with the HSE, so now we have a system in place where we can notify that somebody’s being released and that we’ll use their address of where they are going to and a medical card will be sent to that address, so on the day they get home there should be a medical card there for them,” he said.
When pressed by the Irish Examiner on whether this would apply to all prisoners leaving Cork Prison, Mr Donnellan replied: “Everybody, everybody, yeah.”
However, after claiming the HSE was inundated with angry calls from the public about the story, the HSE national director of communications, Paul Connors, tweeted that the story was “not wholly accurate”.
The Irish Prison Service then issued a statement saying that only prisoners who met the usual HSE criteria for a medical card would be issued with one.
“The Irish Prison Service has a memorandum of understanding with the HSE/National Medical Card Unit for a pilot project, commencing 1 September 2016 with Cork Prison, whereby eligible prisoners who are due to be released from Cork Prison will be assisted by an IPS resettlement officer, who will progress their application in liaison with the national medical card unit,” said the IPS.
“The eligibility of any prisoner for a temporary medical card is assessed by the HSE in line with the National Medical Card guidelines. The IPS and HSE want to ensure continuity of any medical services in place, for prisoners on their release.”
The IPS said that the pilot programme is in place in Cork Prison only for a period of six months, and its extension to other prison institutions is “strictly subject to a positive review of the pilot by the Irish Prison Service, and the HSE”.
“The initiative is intended to support those persons who, given their socio economic background, would otherwise be eligible for a medical card in the general community,” said the IPS.
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