Dad’s cycle protest in medical card row

A father is to embark on a gruelling countrywide cycle to the Dáil this Friday in a desperate bid to force the Government to return the medical card of his daughter, who has Down’s syndrome.

Dad’s cycle protest in medical card row

Tim O’Brien, 46, from Ballyphehane in Cork City, will make the near-550km round trip to confront Cabinet members who claimed during the general election run-in that they would not allow this situation to occur.

Despite initially receiving a two-year discretionary medical card due to the seriousness of her condition when she was born in Oct 2010, HSE officials have now told Mr O Brien the support is no longer available for his daughter, Lucy.

Mr O’Brien said he understands cutbacks have to be made but is outraged vital help for his child is being removed.

In a bid to force a change of stance on the issue, the avid amateur cyclist will travel to the constituency offices of Cork-based Fine Gael TDs Simon Coveney, Jerry Buttimer, and Dara Murphy — all of whom insisted they would not allow the card to be removed before being elected — to personally raise his concerns this Friday.

After the journey, he will begin the long trip to the gates of Leinster House to hand in a letter on behalf of his daughter to Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

“Lucy has hearing, upper respiratory, sight, and walking issues. She is five times more likely to pick up an infection than other children and since last August, she’s had 13 or 14 GP visits.

“I’m not protesting about cutbacks, I know the Government is in an horrendous situation not of its own making, but to take services away from children like Lucy is not acceptable.

“When Lucy was born on Oct 12, 2010, we applied for a medical card under the discretionary category because our income was slightly above the threshold. So we received the card because of her medical condition.

“Nothing has changed in that respect but the card has been removed.

“When the election was taking place in 2011, I asked everyone who knocked on the door will you guarantee Lucy won’t lose her card. They promised there’s no way we would take it.

“I’m creating this one-man awareness cycle because I want to hand in letters to those TDs in power now — Jerry Buttimer, Dara Murphy, and Simon Coveney — who have broken their promise. And I will be handing in the same letter to the Taoiseach.

“Lucy can’t talk for herself so I have to talk on her behalf,” he said.

Mr O Brien’s journey will begin in Douglas at midday on Friday before he travels to Mr Buttimer’s constituency office on Glasheen Rd; Mr Coveney’s office on Main St, Carrigaline; and Mr Murphy’s office on Camden Quay.

Mr O’Brien is hoping to reach Urlingford in Co Kilkenny by 8.30pm that evening, before reaching Dáil Eireann at 3pm on Saturday.

Almost 8,000 people have already shown their support for the move on Mr O’Brien’s Facebook page. The 46-year-old said he has also been contacted by more than a thousand others who want to ride with him.

As previously revealed by the Irish Examiner, the number of discretionary medical cards provided by the HSE has fallen from just over 80,000 in Dec 2010 to 59,000 by this summer.

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