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Dublin: 13 °C Wednesday 24 April, 2019
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Minister: Trust me, I'm aware of cases like Lucy

“It’s not that the system isn’t sympathetic, it is – who wouldn’t be?”

Lucy O'Connor
Lucy O'Connor
Image: dollyfightscancer.wordpress.com

JUNIOR HEALTH MINISTER Kathleen Lynch has said that she is aware of the case of Lucy O’Connor – a young girl with cancer who has not been given a medical card.

Lynch said that although she and other members of the department may not always discuss such situations publicly they are aware of them.

“We’re all familiar with it, take my word for it,” Lynch told the Oireachtas Health Committee.

She said that two independent reviews of the medical card system said the process should not move into a “condition-specific model”.

“It’s not that the system isn’t sympathetic, it is – who wouldn’t be?”

Lynch stated that there is “no barrier to treatment”, adding the health service is delivering to “people in the greatest need”.

lynch

She said that the number of discretionary medical cards has risen from 50,000 to over 70,000, noting that a GP card is “actually better in some instances” as it holders don’t have to pay a prescription charge.

Lynch spoke at the meeting in place of Health Minister Leo Varadkar who was late due to a flight delay from a meeting in Strasbourg.

HSE chief Tony O’Brien said medical card assessment and processing “continues to be a high priority” in 2015.

Soliris

Last week the HSE announced that it would continue to provide the Soliris drug for people with a rare blood disorder.

The group had been in negotiations with a pharmaceutical company to reduce the cost of the drug – €430,000 per patient per year.

O’Brien said the HSE “blinked first” in this instance, as the company was not willing to budge in terms of price.

The HSE is trying to avoid playing God in these situations.

Portiuncula

O’Brien said “a thorough examination of the delivery of maternity services at Portiuncula” will take place after the death of babies at the Galway hospital.

tony obrien

A recent review of the care of seven infants who were born between February and November last year found that two of them died and five had evidence of oxygen deprivation during delivery.

The draft terms of reference for the upcoming investigation have been finalised and are currently being discussed with the families concerned.

The Investigation Team is currently being established to include:

  • Two Obstetricians, one national and one international. One of whom will act as investigation chairperson
  • Two Senior midwives (one national and one international)
  • Patient Advocate
  • Consultant Neonatologist
  • Expert Investigator from the National Incident Management Learning Team (NIMLT)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked if the review will go beyond original 7 cases as “multiples” of this figure have since come froward. O’Brien said that it will, if deemed appropriate following consultations with the families involved.

Trolleys

O’Brien informed the committee that the number of Emergency Department (ED) attendances increased by 5.6% (63,123 people) over the past five years – standing at 1,182,842 in 2014. Last year saw a rise of 2.4% over, compared to 2013 figures.

“In addition, patients attending ED are now generally more unwell and more likely to require admission than in the past due in part to an increase in the number of frail elderly patients attending,” O’Brein said.

During December 2014, 165 additional transitional care beds were provided at hospitals in the greater Dublin, while a further 424 beds had been commissioned nationally as of 27 January.

O’Brien said that the number of delayed discharges remains “high and very challenging” at 745.

He said that he feared the current waiting time of 11 weeks for the HSE’s Fair Deal nursing home placement system could rise to 18-20 weeks (2,200 people) by the end of the year.

He said this was the “Achilles’ heel” of the health system.

“Lucy’s terrible story about her medical card isn’t the first – but it was bound to happen”

Nursing home waiting lists are ‘spiralling out of control’

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Órla Ryan

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