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Call to extend emergency medical card time limit for dying patients

Currently the eligibility period is six months, though one in five people who have these cards live longer and are then forced to undergo a means test.
Jul 2nd 2014, 6:45 AM 4,457 6

THE IRISH HOSPICE Foundation has called for the HSE to extend the eligibility period of the emergency medical card for people who are approaching the end of life.

Currently, people who are terminally ill and are nearing the end of their lives are entitled to a card for six months without a means test, once the prognisis is certified by a medical practitioner.

However the IHF said one in five patients who gets mediical cards on this basis lives beyond six months and the renewal process may be upsetting for patients and their families.

In its submission to the expert group which is reviewing the medical card system, the foundation said it is concerned that the current focus on specific conditions will “overlook those who may not fit easily into any diagnosis, but for whom life expectancy is still limited, including older people who are becoming increasing frail”.

It recommended that the renewal process should involve contacting the certifying doctor for an update rather than a means test form being issued to the patient who is at the end of the life.

In its submission the IHF also said that information on the availability of medical cards granted on terminal illness grounds needs to be made available on the HSE and other relevant websites in a form readily accessible to the general public.

It pointed out that there is no mention of the emergency medical card on terminal illness ground on the website currently, with the result that people who would qualify but who do not have the services of a medical social worker or palliative care attendant may not be aware of their entitlement.

IHF Chief Executive Sharon Foley said the current provision of medical cards without means test for people who are approaching end of life is “appropriate, compassionate and cost effective”.

However she added that the review must be used as an opportunity to amend and improve the process.

Read: Children’s hospice LauraLynn to begin providing home care>

Read: Are you comfortable talking about death and dying?>

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Michelle Hennessy

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