Irish Medical Organisation

IMO expresses concern at HSE's delay issuing medical cards

Station: RTE One
Programme: Nine O'Clock News
Date: 16.11.11

The Irish Medical Organisation has expressed concern that the HSE may be dealing the approval of medical card applications in order to save money. This follows reports that some applications are taking several months to be processed. But the HSE has denied there are significant delays. It says more than four fifths of applications are being processed within the target of fifteen working days. 

Will Goodbody (RTE Reporter): 
Anne Hesnan has several medical conditions and can’t work. But her disability benefit was withdrawn so she applied to the HSE for a medical card to cover her treatment and medication. Two and a half months later all she’s received is a text saying it’s considering her request.

Anne Hesnan: 
I can’t afford medication. I can’t afford to go to a doctor. My son was sick last week. Thankfully it was nothing serious, a bad pain in his stomach. But it’s constant stress worrying that something will go wrong.

Will Goodbody: 
But GPs and other applicants say Anne isn’t unique. A number of doctors, including Cork GP Doctor Ronan Boland, who’ve recently contacted the HSE to try to speed up patient applications, have been told there’s a twelve week backlog. Dr Boland also claims it’s even taking three months for new born babies to receive cards. As a result he says ill patients aren’t attending for treatment and when they do GPs end up treating them for free.

Ronan Boland (GP and Irish Medical Organisation President): 
There’s a twelve week delay in processing medical card applications. It’s saving the State money and the PCRS is under pressure, the HSE is under pressure financially. And you know it may create a perverse incentive amongst people who have a responsibility to balance budgets not to solve this problem.  

Stephen McMahon (Irish Patients’ Association):
Patients shouldn’t be waiting more than fifteen days to get their medical card. And if they are that they should be getting onto the HSE to find out why it hasn’t been issued. On the other hand we would also appeal to doctors, knowing that these patients are going to get their medical cards to treat them.

Will Goodbody:
But the HSE denies there are delays or backlogs in the medical card system, saying there have been vast improvements since it was centralised in July. And it says that of the fifteen thousand cards it issues each week, eighty percent of those have been processed within the target of fifteen working days. Will Goodbody RTE News Dublin.

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