FG plans to extend medical cards to children with severe disability

Party manifesto to contain plan for minor surgery to be carried out by GPs

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar: Fine Gael manifeso proposes caps on the amount patients have to spend on drugs. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar: Fine Gael manifeso proposes caps on the amount patients have to spend on drugs. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

An extra 10,000 medical cards for children and caps on the amount patients have to spend on drugs are among the health proposals in the Fine Gael manifesto.

Hospital trusts are to be given extensive rights to manage their own affairs, including the employment of staff, and GPs would be funded to provide minor surgery and direct access to X-ray and other diagnostic services.

Fine Gael in its first year in a new government would extend the entitlement to a medical card to all children in receipt of a domiciliary care allowance, according to the manifesto, to be published tomorrow.

The party was widely criticised several years ago when it attempted to curb the number of discretionary medical cards issued, with the result that some children with serious illnesses lost their entitlement. The Government subsequently agreed to give cards to children with cancer but has so far resisted calls for the entitlement to be widened further.

Now the party proposes to do just this in recognition of the additional medical costs and needs that are often associated with a severe disability. About 10,000 children would benefit from the initiative.

The manifesto proposes the threshold for the drug payment scheme be reduced from €1,728 a year to €950 to help patients and families with significant ongoing medical bills. Fianna Fáil has proposed to reduce the threshold to €1,200 a year.

In addition, Fine Gael says it would reduce the cap applying to medical card holders when paying the prescription levy from €25 a month to €17.50. There is no proposal in relation to the €2.50 per item charge, which other parties have vowed to abolish.

Subject to negotiations with the Irish Medical Organisation, Fine Gael proposes to fund GPs to expand services such as minor surgery and first-line investigations such as blood pressure and cardiac monitoring. It also says it would ensure GPs have access to X-ray, ultrasound and other investigations for their patients.

Hospital trusts – planned as the successor to nascent hospital groups – would own their assets and manage their own recruitment.