RTE SixOne News- Dr Boland discusses medical card situation
Irish Medical Organisation

RTE SixOne News- Dr Boland discusses medical card situation

RTE News: Friday, 27th January 2012

This is a transcript of a live RTE News interview between Dr Ronan Boland and Bryan Dobson.

 
Programme:   RTE Six One News
Date: 27.01.12
 
Presenter (Bryan Dobson):
The Health Service Executive has admitted delays exist at its applications office, which patients claim have left them without access to medical cards and as a result vital medicines and healthcare.  The Minister for Health has told the HSE to improve its systems saying that patients should not be left in the lurch, as he put it.  Well let’s stay with that because we’re joined now from our Cork studio by Dr. Ronan Boland who is the President of Irish Medical Organisation, but also a GP there on the North side of Cork in the Blackpool area.
Dr. Boland, so perhaps first of all I might ask you what has bee you experience of these delays of which we’ve been hearing now for some time in relation to people getting medical card applications processed?
 
Dr. Ronan Boland:
Indeed Bryan, we have had experience of patients experiencing significant delay.  Particularly since the HSE centralised the processing of all medical cards.  Previously up until last summer most medical card applications and renewals were handled locally by a local office and that’s no longer the case.  Everything is centralised through an office in Finglas.  At practical level, the kind of difficulties which we would have, in fairness which we would have predicted in the IMO for some time before it actually happened, I would divide into two. The first category being people who’s cards were being renewed, so people who have had a medical card which is due to be renewed on a certain date.  A disproportionate number of people are losing their cards that shouldn’t lose them and are coming back on the medical card scheme one, two, three, four months later despite vigorous attempts by themselves to have their cards renewed.  And equally what we’re seeing is the people that are applying for cards for the first time are facing inordinate delays and difficulty with the bureaucracy in Dublin in terms of getting their applications.  At a practical level, my experience as a GP at the moment would be that the people being assigned to my panel in the last week of January are typically people whose =completed medical card acceptance forms I signed last September.
 
Presenter:
Right.
 
Dr. Ronan Boland:
So three to four months appears to the order of the day and that’s completely at variance with what the HSE official line has been up to now.
 
Presenter:
And the accounts that we’ve heard of people being told that their applications were never received, they appear to have got lost somewhere in the system.  That they haven’t filled out these forms correctly, to what extent are those isolated cases or to what extent are those the sort of things that are coming up again and again?
 
Dr. Ronan Boland:
In fairness I’ve heard all of them and a practical level as a GP my experience is distressed patients who have made all reasonable efforts in terms of phone calls, letters to the relevant office and they’re having great difficulty getting to speak to somebody and to have matters dealt with in a timely manner.  And very often these are vulnerable, you must remember these are vulnerable patients who have chronic medical conditions or worse still they may have an acute newly diagnosed condition and are in need of urgent treatment.  So at a, at a very human level it creates, it creates a real difficulty in my consulting room and that of all of my colleagues on a daily basis.
 
Presenter:
Right.
 
Dr. Ronan Boland:
And I have to say that to some extent we flagged this, we were in front of the Oireachtas Health Committee nearly two years ago when the proposed centralisation of medical cards was mooted and we predicted many of the problems, which are now occurring.  I’m, yeah… 
 
Presenter:
I was going to say the HSE have been saying two things today.  First of all they’ve been acknowledging that there are problems and that there are delays.  They haven’t attempted to, to say otherwise but secondly they say that they are getting on top of this and they are committed to reaching I think a response time of fifteen days and they say that that will be the case, they believe, within a couple of months.
 
Dr. Ronan Boland:
Well I welcome that but I mean, I welcome it with a word of caution and that word of caution is that we’ve heard similar reassurances from the PCRS and the HSE before.  We were told when medical cards were centralised that it would be a new streamlined and improved system.  The practical experience of doctors working on the ground at the moment, particularly in the last three months, has been that it’s been a lot worse and up until today the HSE and the PCRS were denying that there was a problem effectively and saying that cards, the vast majority of cards were being processed in a timely manner.  I’m glad that they’re now acknowledging that there’s a problem and I think that the in terms of as a GP I will see the proof of the pudding being in the eating, so I look forward, I’m pleased that we got these reassurances but I think we’ll believe it when we see it.
Presenter:
Just finally and briefly, do you accept their contention that this is about administration and problems in running the system or do you share any suspicion that it’s also a cost saving measure?
 
Dr. Ronan Boland:
I think in fairness to the HSE and the PCRS it was a very ambitious plan to centralise, to remove local health offices around the country that processed all of these cards and I think it was inevitable that there would be some teething problems.  Ant I don’t doubt the bona fides of the PCRS, that they are making all reasonable efforts to address it.  I think they haven’t been succeeding to date but I think you are right that certainly there’s a view abroad amongst many of my colleagues particularly coming to the latter part of 2011 that, that it may have suited the HSE’s purpose to some extent that the, because obviously wherever there’s been a delay it has saved the state money in terms of the cost of doctors treatment and more importantly of prescription drugs.
 
Presenter:
Okay, very good Dr. Ronan Boland there we leave it.  Thank you for talking to us.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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