lucy o'connor

"Lucy's terrible story about her medical card isn't the first - but it was bound to happen"

The story of the HSE’s refusal to provide a child with cancer a medical card has sparked criticism of the system.


A GROUP CAMPAIGNING for children with serious illnesses to be automatically entitled to be a medical card has called for action in the wake of a mother whose daughter is seriously ill with cancer going public with her story.

HSE said last year the process would be enhanced to “make it more sensitive to people’s needs”.

Lucy O’Connor (9), who was diagnosed with B-cell Lymphoma in September, was refused a medical card on the grounds that her parents were over the means limit.

Her mother told all that was requested was a discretionary medical card to cover expenses such as a wig for Lucy (which can costs hundreds of euro), medication, and GP visits.

“We’re just a normal family with a mortgage and kids,” Angela said.

“We’re down to one wage and still have all the outgoings.”

Her parent’s situation has changed since the initial application was made, and her mother has given up her job to look after her daughter.

An appeal is now being made.

“It is so difficult to be dealing with childhood cancer, and then to have to fight for something that I feel five months into a battle with cancer should be a basic right,” Angela wrote in a blog documenting the experience.

She told Today with Sean O’Rourke that Lucy had initially complained of stomach pains at the start of September. Following tests, she underwent major surgery to have part of her bowel removed.

After her diagnosis, she started intense chemotherapy within ten days.


Speaking to this website, Kevin Shortall from Our Children’s Health called for a complete revision of the ‘flawed’ medical card system.

“[The deciding officers] are not sinister people who have no regard for sick children, it’s the fact that it’s a flawed system, with no mechanism to take into account medical need, which is what we have been campaigning for.”

“No parent should have to go public with their story,” Shortall said.

“Sadly, Lucy’s terrible story isn’t the first, but it was bound to happen,” he explained, and said that many other parents are going through similar situations but fear going public, due to the added strain.

“Change is needed, and the quicker, the better.”

In a statement, the HSE said:

What is of absolute importance to the HSE is that this or any sick child receives all necessary care and attention that it requires. The HSE is very anxious to ensure that open lines of communication exist between it and the applicant in this case.

“The HSE is undergoing a thorough root and branch reform of both the application process and the systems for dealing with medical cards issued on discretionary basis,” it continued.

“This process will not be an easy task and will take some time to complete. However, significant steps have been taken to improve the entire medical card system. The numbers of medical cards issued on a discretionary basis is now over 75,000 up from 53,000 in the middle of 2014.”

Following the analysis of an expert panel, Minister for Health Leo Varadkar announced a raft of changes to the system in November.

This included a process where the ‘burden of illness’ will be taken into account when awarding medical cards. This has not yet come into effect.

‘Burden of illness’ or ‘medical hardship’ are principles which afford medical cards to patients who may have significant financial means, but whose medical condition may cause a serious burden to their families and work lives.


Shortall went through a similar experience himself.

He and wife had to battle to hold on to a discretionary medical card for their daughter, Louise, who was diagnosed with Leukaemia.

Another woman, Jackie Connolly, said her six-year-old daughter’s medical card was taken away, despite her having Down Syndrome, juvenile arthritis, chronic asthma and a heart condition.

A mother-of-two was asked if her four-year-old son ‘still had Down syndrome’ when applying for a medical card that has been taken from him.

Amanda Hughes from Trim in Co Meath spoke to Lunchtime on Newstalk, saying that the HSE had also lost an application she had sent in, forcing her to re-apply for the medical card which was subsequently denied.

Read: Over 50,000 sign petition over discretionary medical cards as parents say ‘no more’ >

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