THE HSE HOPES to clear the backlog of 31,456 medical card applications by May, the chairman of the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children said today.
It follows a visit by the Committee to the central processing office for medical cards in Finglas, Dublin today amid previous heavy criticism of the Health Service Executive over delays to the processing of applications for medical cards.
Chairman Jerry Buttimer, a Fine Gael TD, said today that the visit had been “positive and constructive”. The centralised medical card centre was set up last July in response to criticism of long delays for the issuing of cards.
“Today we received a number of welcome commitments: the HSE has said that it hopes to have the backlog cleared by early May and that, in the interim, it will produce progress reports every two weeks, these reports will be given to the Committee and published online. The HSE has also agreed to report back to the Committee in May,” Buttimer said.
He said that it was the hope of the Committee that once the delays had been worked through it would take 21 days for an application to be processed in normal circumstances.
However Buttimer’s fellow committee member, Fianna Fáil spokesperson on children Charlie McConalogue was less than complimentary, criticising the government for the outstanding applications backlog.
The Donegal North-East TD said that a lack of preparation prior to the centralising of the process had meant that over 1,700 applications made as far back as last July were still outstanding.
“The Government refused to listen to concerns about the impact on medical card holders of rushing this process without carrying out the necessary preparations,” he said.
“They allowed a situation where there was a sudden loss of expertise in local offices, while community welfare officers were suddenly not allowed to deal with medical card applications as they have done for many years.
“As a result, there have been numerous accounts of applications being misplaced and lost, leading to further increases in the delays for many applicants,” he claimed.
The HSE has said that people waiting to get their card renewed can still use their old cards while GPs can now also prolong the entitlement of vulnerable medical card holders who are subject of the renewal process by as much as four months.