SVP social policy analyst Audrey Deane said the charity had received letters from public servants in the HSE asking it to get involved in funding patient care.
“We have seen people whose own statutory services have been cut back to the extent where they can see it impacting on their patients and sometimes they ask us to get involved,” she said.
Ms Deane said it was an issue the SVP felt “very uncomfortable about” because it did not see funding healthcare as part of its job.
“We are not a healthcare provider,” said Ms Deane, adding that the charity was asked to contribute towards the cost of patient services including educational psychological assessments and occupational therapy.
Ms Deane was speaking yesterday prior to the annual Irish Cancer Society Charles Cully lecture in Dublin.
Last December, it was reported that social workers were asking SVP to help in paying for the cleaning of houses, taxi fares, kitchen appliances, and rent arrears for people too sick to work.
Ms Deane said she had been involved in health policy formulation with SVP since 2000. “Really, we just wonder what it is going to take to change the whole approach to access to care in this country,” she said.
“We just don’t have enough consultants per capita in this country and that is having a huge impact on people.”
Ms Deane said the whole approach to healthcare was ideologically and politically driven but that the charity felt it should be outcome- driven, with access based on need. But, Ms Deane added, this clearly was not the case and never had been.
“We see the people falling through the cracks waiting for care and the impact this was having on them and their families,” she said. “Access to health services should be based on need and not ability to pay.”
Ms Deane said fast-tracked access is not acceptable, as it excludes those who disadvantaged of structured exclusion. There were people paying the price for poor health policy decision- making over many decades.
“As long as thousands of adults and children continue to live in households which do not have enough for a minimum essential standard of living, they will continue to suffer poorer health outcomes as they simply cannot afford to access the treatment they need,” she said.
In Ireland, poorer people are up to 70% more likely to get some cancers and the social and economic factors that impact on people’s health must be tackled, according to the Irish Cancer Society.
Chief executive John McCormack said they had to ensure that everybody, no matter where they lived or how much money they had, got the same high-quality cancer treatment; that they went for screenings; and that they knew how to recognise early symptoms.
“Ultimately, however, if we are to close the health gap between the rich and the poor in Ireland, we have to close the inequality gap too,” he said.