Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Kerry Medical Cards.

10.

asked the Minister for Health whether he is aware that in County Kerry difficulty is being experienced by many persons in the lower income group, including in particular old age pensioners and widows, in obtaining the grant of a medical card; and if he will consider taking steps to ensure the speedy grant of cards to persons such as these who appear to be clearly eligible.

I am not aware that, in County Kerry, difficulty is being experienced by many persons in the lower income group, including old age pensioners and widows, in obtaining a medical services card from the health authority for the area. I understand that applications for medical cards are dealt with speedily by the health authority and that there are no arrears of applications awaiting decision by it.

The determination of an applicant's eligibility for a medical card is entirely a matter for the Kerry County Council as health authority for that area. Each application is considered on its merits. No fixed means scale is observed but the general circumstances and income of the applicant's household are taken into account. This may result in the refusal of individual applications, including sometimes those of old age pensioners and widows, where the circumstances of the applicant's household, generally, are reasonably good and it is felt by the health authority that the provision of private medical services for the applicant would not cause hardship to the family.

Should the Deputy, however, be aware of a particular instance in which it appears that a refusal to issue a medical card has resulted, or is likely to result, in genuine hardship, I shall have inquiries made from the Council, if he furnishes me with details of the case. While I am prepared to make these inquiries, I wish to make it clear that I have no functions concerning the determination of eligibility for general medical services in individual cases under Section 14 of the Health Act, 1953, this being entirely a matter for the health authority, as I have already mentioned.