Parents protest over withdrawal of child medical cards

Parents embark on six-mile demonstation walk from HSE offices in Finglas to city

Protester Jackie Connolly of Douglas in Cork said the HSE had previously used its discretion when it came to her disabled daughter’s expensive medical bills.

Protester Jackie Connolly of Douglas in Cork said the HSE had previously used its discretion when it came to her disabled daughter’s expensive medical bills.

Sat, Nov 23, 2013, 13:37

Parents whose children have lost their discretionary medical cards were today undertaking a six-mile walk from the Primary Care Services offices in Finglas to the Dáil.

Among the attendees at the protest was Noreen Keane, mother of eight-year-old Ronan Whitehouse, who has Down syndrome.

Ronan, who is from Clonlara in Limerick, also has asthma and sight difficulties, thyroid problems and hearing loss. His discretionary medical card was withdrawn in recent months.

Ms Keane says she is angry that parents are forced to take this action in order to secure vital medical care for their children.

“The Taoiseach has stated that all those who need a medical card will have one, my son needs one and his was taken by the current Government. Essentially they are putting my child’s life at risk by withdrawing his medical card.

“They say they are not targeting us, but it’s hard not to feel that when 80 per cent of these discretionary cards have been withdrawn from children with Down syndrome in the past year.”

Also among the protesters was Jackie Connolly of Douglas in Cork, whose daughter Katie was granted a discretionary medical card when she was born.

Katie (5) has Down syndrome, in addition to asthma, juvenile arthritis, a heart condition and hearing problems. Earlier this year the HSE wrote to the Connolly family about their plan to withdraw Katie’s card.

Ms Connolly said she and her husband Ray’s combined earnings are too high to qualify them for a medical card. However, Ms Connolly said the HSE previously used its discretion when it came to her daughter’s expensive medical bills.

“It is so upsetting. We feel we are being squeezed left, right and centre. We have to get our medical card back and if this [the walk] is what we need to do, then we will do it.”

Ms Connolly currently works 15 hours a week. She is distressed at the possibility of having to give up work in a bid to qualify for a medical card.

Katie attends weekly speech and language therapy lessons in addition to occupational therapy appointments. She needs orthotics to help her walk and visits the GP at least once a week.

The HSE has previously insisted there has been no alteration in the guidelines for the allocation of medical cards and that discretion is applied even in cases when an applicant’s earnings exceed the income threshold.

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