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mastectomy bras

Donnelly asks HSE to undo cuts to allowances as breast cancer survivors voice anger on Liveline

A spokesperson for the Minister told The Journal that no cuts to the allowances will be going ahead.


MINISTER FOR HEALTH Stephen Donnelly has asked the HSE to ensure women are not at a financial loss as a result of cuts to allowances for specialised bras for women recovering from a mastectomy.

His intervention comes after the issue was raised in the Dáil today by Independent TD Marian Harkin and following two days of coverage on RTÉ Radio One’s Liveline. 

Women who have recovered from breast cancer expressed outrage at the cuts which mean that for some women a current allowance of two specialised bras per year after a mastectomy will be reduced to one.

Allowances for specialised mastectomy swimsuits and prostheses were also impacted by the cuts.

One woman told Joe Duffy today that it’s hard for men to understand that when you lose your breasts you “totally lose your confidence”.

She explained that she struggled to even leave the house until she had a fitting for a specialised bra.

“For this to be taken from us Joe, my god we have lost enough,” she said. 

The issue was raised in the Dáil today by Sligo-Leitrim TD Marian Harkin who called the policy “mean-spirited” and asked the Taoiseach to personally intervene.

“These medical devices are essential to help prevent lymphedema and give women just a little confidence to face the world,” Harkin said. 

In response, Varadkar said it was not a Government decision and he was only made aware of the issue yesterday.

“I’ve asked my staff to look into it. Maybe there’s a good reason but I would love to know what it is quite frankly.

“I don’t support that kind of penny-pinching, particularly when it involves people recovering from cancer,” he said. 

Following this exchange, the Department of Health provided The Journal with a statement which said the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly was aware of the reformed HSE procedures for accessing post-mastectomy supports.

“He’s fully supportive of the provision of these supports to all women regardless of medical card status.

“He understands that the threshold of support provided under these new procedures may lead to a number of women receiving less support than previously.

“He has today asked the HSE to amend the procedures to ensure that no woman, either currently availing of the scheme or accessing it in the future, is at any financial loss as a result of these changes,” the statement read. 

The issue was raised at a Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting tonight. 

Minister Donnelly noted that a statement clarifying the matter had been issued to RTE before the programme aired. 

He said that he is 100% behind supports for women who have had a mastectomy and the decision to level supports across the country has been rescinded. 

The scheme will be back to how it was and the same supports will apply, the Minister noted at the meeting.

A spokesperson for the Minister told The Journal that this means that no woman currently availing of supports will see these supports cut – i.e. if a woman was in receipt of two bras a year, she will continue to be entitled to two a year.  

In a statement, the HSE said:

“We will review the procedures in relation to this issue in line with what the Minister has said. Our intention was to standardise the allowances for the provision of extremely important post-mastectomy products, including bras and hair loss solutions for people who undergone cancer treatment in Ireland.   

“The previous system was unfair and inequitable.  However, we understand the point being made and will review the system quickly to ensure the system is fair to everyone and that no woman is at a loss a result of changes.”

With reporting by Christina Finn

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