Government inaction means hundreds of Athlone applicants from 2011 still awaiting Medical Cards-Cll.O’Rourke
There are still 31,456 medical card applications outstanding from last year as a result of the Government’s inaction on delays and its failure to listen to concerns before centralising the application process in July, according to Fianna Fáil Town Councillor Aengus O'Rourke"It is unacceptable that there are still hundreds locally and thousands nationally still 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 applications, 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 be 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 they incurred through no fault of their own.
“I commend the efforts of the staff at the Medical Card Processing 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 Cllr. O'Rourke.