Transcript: What prisons boss said on medical cards

Michael Donnellan: Director general of Irish Prison Service.

At a conference in Cork last Thursday, the director general of the Irish Prison Service, Michael Donnellan, told the audience that agreement had been reached between the HSE and the prison service in relation to ensuring prisoners would have a medical card on their day of release from jail. 

He was asked by Catherine Shanahan if this would apply to all prisoners and he confirmed that this was the case.

Yesterday the HSE tweeted that the story as reported in the Irish Examiner was “not wholly accurate”. To show that our story was based on what we were told by the head of the Irish Prison Service, the transcript of the conversation between Catherine Shanahan and Michael Donnellan is printed below.

CS:

You were just mentioning [at the conference, organised by Cork Care Alliance] about finally having reached agreement with the HSE in relation to day-of-exit medical cards essentially for every prisoner in the country, but to start in Cork?

MD:

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

CS:

So when was that agreement reached?

MD:

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. It’s a huge issue, especially for people on methadone or on medication, having the ability to access mediation on transition. So that’s now in place.

CS:

So is it starting next week?

MD:

No no, it’s started already.

CS:

When did it start?

MD:

In the last few weeks.

CS:

And it’s applicable to all prisoners leaving Cork Prison is it?

MD:

Everybody, everybody, yeah.

CS:

When do you want to role it out nationally then?

MD:

Well we want to see how it goes here in terms of how the system works because we have a central medical card system as you know in Finglas in Dublin so we’ve been working with them. So that the group — we’ll be announcing to them that “this guy’s going out, this guy’s going out, here’s his address” so they are going to give them the medical card and then it’ll be reviewed after six months. Equally, when people come in to prison and they are going to be serving 10 years or life, we will tell the medical card system that that person is now in prison so they can actually stop their medical card.

CS:

How much is it going to cost the State?

MD:

It’s a cost anyway because all people on social welfare and on a level of income are entitled to a medical card so there’s no cost here other than giving people their entitlement.

CS:

Obviously a lot of prisoners are homeless — I’d imagine even from the discussions that were held here today — what will you do in terms of those, in terms of an address to deliver a medical card to?

MD:

So therefore the address that they are going to, the homeless persons’ address. Now the reality is that in very exceptional cases — not in Cork but in Dublin — some people have to be released onto the street and that’s a problem.

CS:

OK, there’s been a bit of a debate in the media over the past few days on foot of the the story about half a million over the next three years on certain items of clothing for prisoners. Do you think that people will get annoyed that they’re going to get medical cards immediately on the day of exit or what do you think?

MD:

No, I don’t think people would begrudge somebody their medication, hopefully they wouldn’t.


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