Breast cancer victim has medical card withdrawn, FF leader tells Dáil

Kenny says withdrawal of cards not a matter of policy

A woman with breast cancer and secondary growths has lost her medical card because she is €20 over the income eligibility limit, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said.

He told the Dáil that a man suffering from chronic depression, who previously attempted suicide, lost his card because he was €5 over the limit.

"The longest surviving Irish patient of chronic myeloid leukaemia, James Mullen, who has had a medical card for 22 years, only found out during a visit six months ago to his chemist that it had not been renewed. What is going on is extraordinary.''

Mr Martin said he had raised, time and again, with the Taoiseach the Government's decision to end discretionary medical cards and withdraw them from very needy people.

On RTÉ's Saturday Night Show, he said, Declan and Annette Coyle talked movingly about their nine-year-old son, Alex, who had Mowat-Wilson syndrome, and "their heartbreak and sense of bewilderment at the heartless decision'' to take a discretionary medical card from him.

He said they had put on a table the supply of medical equipment required for Alex on a weekly basis: a cocktail of syringes, feeding pumps, nappies and medication.

“If anything captured the extraordinary scandal that has been going on in our health system for the past two years, that episode captured it.’’

Mr Martin said the Jack and Jill Children's Foundation had said in its literature that the Government was "torturing'' the parents of very sick children into submission.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said it should not be assumed the Government was out to withdraw medical cards from people as a matter of policy. For many years community welfare offices were in a position to make a judgment regarding whether a card should or should not be allocated, which made for an uneven allocation. "The centralisation of the process has resulted in a more even allocation across the board.''

Mr Kenny said in the cases highlighted, the facilities, aids and appliances required by a sick child or adult were met by the long-term illness scheme.

“The question that arises is how far can we stretch discretion, given the equality of assessment that applies in terms of the income limits. I have been informed by the HSE that it has been flexible in dealing with individual cases.’’

Michael O'Regan

Michael O'Regan

Michael O’Regan is a former parliamentary correspondent of The Irish Times