Call for medical cards for very sick children

Jack and Jill founder says dying children should get cards before healthy under-5s

Medical cards should be given to terminally ill children ahead of the Government’s plan to expand eligibility to all under-5s, according to the head of the Jack and Jill Children’s Foundation.

Chief executive Jonathan Irwin called on the Taoiseach to protect children who are palliative and going home to die by giving them a medical card automatically.

Parents of healthy children under five years old do not want the free GP card at the expense of medical cards for children who are dying, he claimed.

“Medical cards for a palliative (dying) child should not be up for review and should not be issued on a temporary basis, but rather given to the family automatically and followed up by a range of supports to help parents to care for their child at home.”

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Mr Irwin said the system was “thoughtless and cold” because it forced parents of dying babies to queue up to register their child’s birth, before a child’s PPS number is issued and supports provided.

“This medical card debate is going around in circles post budget and I am calling on the Taoiseach to order a review of the HSE’s broken medical card system, before any Free GP cards for under 5s are initiated.”

Meanwhile, the Irish Medical Organisation criticised claims that GPs were claiming fees for medical cards in respect of dead people.

Dr Ray Walley, chairman of the GP Committee of the IMO, accused the Department of Health of "spinning" this allegation to distract attention from its own mismanagement of the medical card system.

He said payments were made to doctors in the basis of patient lists maintained by the HSE, which was also responsible for maintaining the national register of deaths. More than half the notifications of deceased patients came from doctors, who had agreed to refund any payments made after a person died.

The National Association for General Practitioners said the proposal for free GP care for under-5s had placed doctors in an impossible position. The proposal was positive but as currently envisaged it would not provide doctors with the infrastructure they require to provide the level of service required.

"While our members would obviously be delighted to attend all children on this type of scheme the reality is that they are not prepared to do so at the expense of the most vulnerable," said association chairman Dr Andrew Jordan. "We are now calling on the Minister for Health to explain to GPs how this scheme can be introduced without their most vulnerable patients being affected and what support the Department of Health is going to provide in this regard."

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times