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Do TDs bring up medical cards in the Dáil to get votes? 'Bullshit'

“Do you think the Government would give a card back just if people wrote to them? Not in a million years. Not on your nelly.”

A baby pictured at a medical card protest outside Government Buildings in May.
A baby pictured at a medical card protest outside Government Buildings in May.
Image: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

MORE THAN 1,000 parliamentary questions related to medical cards were asked between January and October of this year.

Some 1,076 questions were asked by TDs on the issue during this period, up from 652 last year and 922 in 2012.

A spokesperson for the HSE, to whom the questions are re-directed, told the Medical Independent approximately 90% of this year’s queries related to individual medical cards, with the remainder generally relating to the Primary Care Reimbursement Service.

Medical cards have repeatedly been on the political agenda in 2014, with Health Minister Leo Varadkar announcing on Tuesday that terminally ill patients will no longer have their cards reviewed.

So, do TDs think asking parliamentary questions about the cards is a good use of Dáil time?

Michael Healy Rae told TheJournal.ie TDs have to bring up medical card queries in the Dáil because the current system is “broken”.

“We had excellent people working in communities in the past such as community welfare officers and public health care nurses – they’d get calls and get information for people. All of these people could be contacted on a local basis.”

Dail Scenes Michael Healy Rae Source: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

The Independent TD said he would “never apologise to anyone for making a representation on behalf of a person who needs help”.

I’m not sorry, I’ll raise that with the Health Minister if I have to. If it means I have to create a wreck about it to get an answer, so be it.

He said the argument that some TDs ask parliamentary questions about constituents’ medical cards in order to get votes is “bullshit”.

I will never, ever make an apology for representing people. I will go to the ends of the earth to help people. Do you think [the Government] would give a card back just if people wrote to them? Not in a million years. Not on your nelly.

Fianna Fáil’s Willie O’Dea said he doesn’t usually ask parliamentary questions about medical cards, preferring to go directly to the HSE.

He said it was “most unfair” that people have to go to TDs to get answers.

“People are very confused and anxious about medical cards over the last 18 months … The amount of questions has risen because there is so much pressure on the ground.”

Fianna Fail - Social Welfare Amendment Willie O'Dea Source: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

O’Dea said he deals with medical card queries on a weekly basis and has “rarely come across an undeserving case”.

People come to you and they have a bad story that will evoke your sympathy. The vast majority of the time, I’m glad to make the case because they’re clearly in need.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health told us that the determination of an individual’s eligibility for a medical card is the statutory responsibility of the HSE.

“Under the legislation, there is no role for the Minister for Health in assessing an individual’s medical card eligibility and, therefore, queries are referred to the HSE for direct reply.

“The HSE established a dedicated contact service for members of the Oireachtas, specifically for queries relating to medical cards and GP visit cards. Deputies are reminded of this facility in the Minister’s replies and of the option to use it for an earlier response.”

Terminally ill patients will no longer have their medical cards reviewed 

Apparently GPs can renew medical cards – but did anyone tell GPs?

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About the author:

Órla Ryan

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