The Irish Mail on Sunday

Protesters to picket Dáil demanding medical card reforms

- By Niamh Griffin HEALTH CORRESPOND­ENT niamh.griffin@mailonsund­

DEMONSTRAT­ORS will picket the Dáil on Tuesday to call for an overhaul of how medical cards are granted to children.

The lunchtime demonstrat­ion, organised by campaign group Our Children’s Health, is demanding that the criteria for granting medical cards to children be illness-related rather than purely financial.

The protest will see a return of the type of demonstrat­ions by that proved so effective in 2008, when ‘pensioner power’ put paid to a raft of controvers­ial budgetary measures, including medical card cuts.

Peter Fitzgerald, co-founder of Our Children’s Health, said the group emailed all 166 TDs

‘Only 24 TDs replied to email plea’

asking for support but claims to have only received replies from 24. Ten were simple acknowledg­ements, and just three Government TDs have replied, he claimed.

Only one said he would lobby Health Minister James Reilly for reform. He did admit, however, that Labour’s Alex White will meet the group on Friday.

Mr Fitzgerald’s nine-year-old niece had leukaemia but only receives temporary cards.

And the calls for medical card reform from Our Children’s Health have been echoed by groups advocating for the elderly around the country, who warn that fear is spreading among older people dependent on the card for access to treatment.

Maureen Kavanagh, CEO of Active Retirement, said: ‘Somebody who is sick and under 70 is the most vulnerable, their cards are discretion­ary and they live in fear of losing them.

‘We shouldn’t be looking at discretion­ary medical cards being issued and then whipped away again,’ she added.

Over-70s with an income of less than €500 a week for a single person, or €900 for a couple, qualify for a card. But under-70s can only have a maximum income of €201.50 for a single person, or €298 for couples.

Noel Byrne, of the Cork charity Westgate Foundation, said: ‘It is disgracefu­l what is happening. The income level for people is ridiculous, who can live on that? One man is in his 80s, and he’s lost his card.’

Susan Hogan, of Co. Clare’s

‘People are terrified. I can’t allay the fears’

Caring for Carer, said: ‘Elderly people are talking about this in our groups, everybody is frightened.

‘The threshold is so low, ridiculous­ly low.’

Another pensioner in Co. Kerry had his card taken away while he was in hospital receiving long-term care for a number of ailments.

His wife made ‘constant calls’ to the medical card centre for weeks. The card was eventually reinstated.

Marie Price-Bolger from Dublin’s Trustus charity said: ‘People are terrified. Some people have received a couple of letters already this year. I can’t allay their fears.’

A HSE spokeswoma­n said: ‘There has been no change in the assessment process.

‘However, the HSE does appreciate that one of the consequenc­e of transition to the national system has been difficulty at renewal stage for higher income households even when serious illness or disability is involved. This issue is being addressed.’

 ??  ?? FEARS: Maureen Kavanagh, CEO of Active Retirement
FEARS: Maureen Kavanagh, CEO of Active Retirement

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