Ronan Woodhouse and his mother, Noreen Keane, waited outside Mallow General Hospital for two and a half hours on Monday evening with the hope of meeting the minister.
To their surprise, James Reilly met them as he left a public engagement and invited them into a private room for 20 minutes where he listened to their difficulties as a result of losing the card.
Ms Keane said she felt more positive after the meeting, during which the minister assured them he is looking at a “new wave or new strand” of medical card to best meet the needs of children with long-term disabilities.
Dr Reilly told them there was no way a child like Ronan should have to confirm to HSE officials that he still has Down Syndrome.
Ronan, from Co Clare, has 13 associated life-long medical conditions, including heart problems, sight loss, and chronic asthma, but was told around one year ago he is no longer entitled to the vital support. His case was first highlighted in the Irish Examiner last autumn.
He and his mother waited outside the Fine Gael party conference in Limerick last November to ask the Taoiseach directly to give back the card. Enda Kenny’s car drove right past them and despite telling the media the next day that he would be happy to meet them, this hasn’t happened.
Ms Keane expected a similar response from Dr Reilly but he took the time to listen to their concerns. “I told him Ronan’s experience and about the long and protracted system we have been through and he heard us loud and clear.
“I put my concerns to him, he listened, he is very aware of the difficulties that children like Ronan are having in not having their medical cards, he is committed to looking at this further. I felt it was very positive.”
Ronan has recently been provided with a long-term illness card and a GP card which helps with costs, but is not sufficient according to his mother, and does not cover a range of special therapies and care requirements.
He spoke directly to the minister and asked: “Give me back my medical card.”
His mother said she challenged the minister about “taking cards from disabled children and giving free GP cards to children under six who are well.” She said there was “no fairness in that”. She said the minister understood this and said he was committed to changing the system. Despite the meeting taking place just days from the election, Ms Keane said the minister “was running late and very busy, he needn’t have bothered to meet me, but he did and he listened.”
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