Financial aid applications made to the ICS increased by 12% during the first three months of this year. This compares with a 5% rise over the last two years.
It also emerged that almost one in five enquiries to the society’s Daffodil Centres last year were about financial issues.
The ICS’s head of advocacy and communications, Kathleen O’Meara, said they were hearing from many patients who were losing their discretionary medical card after a review or were being refused in the first instance.
The society has urged the HSE to ensure cancer patients undergoing treatment are given medical cards without delay and has asked for an urgent meeting with the health authority.
“The Government is consistently denying that there is a policy to cut discretionary medical cards but what we are hearing from patients paints a different picture.” said Ms O’Meara.
Some of the people who have contacted the National Cancer Helpline (1800 200 700) include:
* A relative of a cancer patient looking for advice on a medical card application and who had called the HSE 18 times about it. The patient has received debt collector letters regarding a hospital charge of €750.
* A 72-year-old bowel cancer survivor who needs his medical card to pay for his colostomy bags. The HSE are to review his entitlement to the card and he is distressed about this.
* An 80-year-old lady with metastatic breast cancer who is fearful that her medical card will be taken from her.
* A young woman with breast cancer and children, struggling to pay childcare, mortgage, hospital charges and drug payments has been refused a medical card.
* A woman with breast cancer lost her medical card and received a GP visiting card instead. She and her husband earn a total of €651 per week but she doesn’t earn any money during school holidays. They have two children. She is due to undergo reconstruction surgery this summer and cannot afford her medication and the prescription charges.
* A woman with secondary breast cancer who had her medical card revoked is currently undergoing treatment and having trouble paying for her medications.
The ICS is extremely worried that some cancer patients must have their doctor sign them off as having a terminal diagnosis to qualify for a card.
“This is an extremely distressing scenario for both the patient and their doctor and it raises serious emotional issues as, in some cases, the patient may not be aware of how gravely ill they are,” said Ms O’Meara.
The society is also concerned that some patients in the final weeks or months of their lives have to resubmit all their financial details to reapply for a card that had expired after six months.