HSE clarification on medical cards for terminally ill patients welcomed by Irish Hospice Foundation

The Irish Hospice Foundation has welcomed clarification from the HSE that patients given a medical card after a diagnosis of terminal illness will not lose it if they live longer than expected.

HSE clarification on medical cards for terminally ill patients welcomed by Irish Hospice Foundation

The Irish Hospice Foundation has welcomed clarification from the HSE that patients given a medical card after a diagnosis of terminal illness will not lose it if they live longer than expected.

But the charity said the policy must be better publicised as it was not being followed in all cases.

The HSE responded following days of confusion and appeals for clarity after a father of three with incurable prostate cancer revealed his medical card was revoked twice.

John Wall, 48, applied for a non-means tested emergency medical card, issued within 24 hours in such cases, after his shock diagnosis of stage four cancer, and was initially informed it was valid for 18 months.

When it was revoked after six months and then again after a two-month extension when he appealed, he began a fruitless search for an explanation.

The HSE has since returned his card and apologised, saying the 18-month reference contained in information from the Department of Health was incorrect and had been removed from the public domain.

But it also said that anyone receiving an emergency medical card was subject to a means test after six months and anyone rejected at that point could seek a review on medical grounds.

Irish Hospice Foundation advocacy manager Angela Edghill said she had been shocked to hear this as it was contrary to the advice the foundation had been giving people.

It also contradicted a commitment by Leo Varadkar in 2014 when he was health minister that no terminally ill person would be forced to undergo a review to hold on to their card.

The HSE has now said that anyone given a terminal diagnosis, classified as a prognosis of less than a year to live, could apply for an emergency card that would not be subject to a review once the year was up.

"PCRS (Primary Care Reimbursement Service) confirm that persons who have been awarded a terminal illness card will never be subject to review for the remainder of their life, regardless of duration," it said.

Ms Edghill said she was delighted with the statement but it now had to be put into practice.

"We know from Mr Wall's case and anecdotally from other cases that people are being put under review. That must stop," she said.

"The process needs to be much clearer, the correct forms need to be made much more widely available and patients need to know their entitlements.

"This is a support that we campaigned for and one the HSE can be proud of but not if they're going to keep the rules around it impenetrable."

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