There are still 31,456 applications for medical cards still outstanding from 2011 as a result of the Government’s failure to act quickly on delays, or to listen to concerns in ahead of the centralisation medical card applications last July, according to Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Children Charlie McConalogue TD.
Deputy McConalogue visited the central Medical Card Processing Centre today as part of a delegation from the Oireachtas Health Committee.
“It is unacceptable that there are still 31,456 people waiting for an answer on their medical card applications despite having applied last year. They were promised that all valid applications would be processed within 15 days. In fact there are still 1,717 applications outstanding from last July, when the centralisation process began.
“While a significant number of these were incomplete, much of the problem stems from the lack of preparation in advance of centralisation. The Government refused to listen to concerns about the impact on medical card holders of rushing this process without carrying out the necessary preparations. They allowed a situation where there was a sudden loss of expertise in local offices, while community welfare officers were suddenly not allowed to deal with medical card applications as they have done for many years. As a result, there have been numerous accounts of applications being misplaced and lost, leading to further increases in the delays for many applicants.
“People have now had to go without a medical card for months on end, leaving those with chronic illnesses without any support for accessing the treatment or medication they need.
“While progress is now being made in addressing the backlog, with 26,506 applications from last year finally being processed in recent weeks, many people have had to endure much hardship and expense while waiting for a decision to made on their application.
“I welcome the fact that patients who are still waiting will from this week be able to go through their GPs to secure a 4-month extension on their medical cards. However, a clear system now needs to be put in place to reimburse those who have had to fork out on medicines and treatments that they could not afford. It is unfair that they would be left to carry the burden of such costs as a result of delays that were no fault of their own.
“I wish to commend the efforts of the staff at the centre who have had to deal with a very difficult situation in recent months. It is disappointing that the Government has taken so long to address these serious delays that resulted from their failure to listen in the first place,” concluded Deputy McConalogue.