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Medical cards: call a spade a spade

As someone who has recent experience fighting to get (and then fighting to keep) a discretionary medical card for a very sick family member, I found the letter from Paul Connors, National Director of Communications HSE (Letters, Nov 16), quite disingenuous.

The facts are that in a situation where the HSE budget has to be cut, the discretionary medical card is the softest target. The people who have such cards (the long term sick) are over the income limits so they can be taken away at will. Yes, they can appeal but that will just delay the taking away of the card in most cases.

Before the current austerity regime, discretionary cards were issued, without much hassle, to anyone who provided medical evidence of a serious ongoing condition such as cancer. That has all changed, despite what the government says.

Mr Connors states ‘discretion will continue to be applied fairly and compassionately for those people whose incomes exceed the prescribed thresholds.’

That is not my experience or that of the many cases the media has highlighted. My relative got and retained his medical card and Mr Connors might claim that this proves there is compassion in the system. It does not. It shows that if your family has the energy, education and know-how to fight for you, you may get and/or keep your medical card.

To get the card I mentioned I had to threaten the HSE with the fact that I was meeting the Minister for Health the following week (I was, but in another context) and I got the card for my relative at the end of that week.

The card was reviewed after only 11 months and one of the medical ‘experts’ the HSE uses decided my relative needed a GP-only card, despite having had two major operations since the card was issued. Four communications from me were ‘not received’ by the HSE.

A complaint to the minister’s office resulted in an apology from the HSE and the communications being found.

I won the appeal to keep a full card but only, I believe, because of my representations to the minister and the fact that the file must have been marked ‘this woman is trouble’.

Enid O’Dowd
Dublin 6


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