Support boost for parents after sick children lose discretionary medical cards

 Ronan Woodhouse, with parents and children, undertook a six-mile walk from Primary Care Services offices in Finglas to the Dáil. Picture: Nick Bradshaw

Parents of sick children who have lost their discretionary medical cards received a boost over the weekend after both the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) and the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) spoke of the hardship their members have seen since cards were withdrawn.

ICGP chairperson Dr Mary Sheehan said family doctors were daily seeing evidence of the suffering caused by the withdrawal of medical cards.

The NAGP said the withdrawal of discretionary medical cards was causing “absolute chaos” in GP surgeries.

Her comments came after parents and their children undertook a six-mile walk from the Primary Care Services offices in Finglas to the Dáil over the weekend.

Among the attendees at the protest on Saturday was Noreen Keane, mother of eight-year-old Ronan Woodhouse, who has Down’s syndrome.

Ronan, who is from Clonlara in Co Clare, also has asthma, sight difficulties, thyroid problems and hearing loss. His discretionary medical card was withdrawn in recent months.

Ms Keane handed over a letter addressed to Taoiseach Enda Kenny expressing her disgust at Mr Kenny’s assertion in the Dáil last week that he was unaware she wanted to meet him, despite agreeing to such a meeting during the Fine Gael Árd Fheis in Limerick in October.

She said Fine Gael had taken away Ronan’s medical card and, in doing so, had put his life at risk.

“If he does not have his card returned his life is essentially at risk as he will not have access to daily medications, access to his GP (15 last year) to his consultants, audiology, ophthalmology, orthotics, outpatients, blood tests, etc,” she stated in the letter.

In a separate letter she appealed to director of primary care John Hennessy to “stop playing politics and games with the health of my beautiful, disabled child and give him back the medical card that Fianna Fáil saw fit to give him all of his life”.

Also among the protesters was Jackie Connolly of Douglas in Cork whose daughter, Katie, was granted a discretionary medical card when she was born.

Katie, 5, 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 their plan to withdraw Katie’s card.

More than 40 people attended Saturday’s protest in Dublin. Both Katie and Ronan participated in the walk.

The HSE has previously insisted that there has been no alteration in the guidelines for the allocation of medical cards and that discretion is applied even in cases when an applicants earnings exceed its income threshold.

However, the Irish Examiner reported last week that the numbers with discretionary medical cards had fallen by 10,400 since the beginning of the year with the largest number of withdrawals in the South.


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