Written Answers. - Physical Disability Services.

Mary Wallace

Question:

79 Miss M. Wallace asked the Minister for Health the current position in relation to funding from his Department towards the work of the Spinal Injuries Action Association; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9345/97]

Limerick East): The funding of voluntary bodies representing or providing services to people with physical disability is primarily a matter for health boards.

I understand that the Spinal Injuries Action Association received a lottery grant of £2,500 in 1996 from the Eastern Health Board towards equipment. If the association wishes to apply for further funding, it should discuss the matter with the relevant health boards.

Mary Wallace

Question:

80 Miss M. Wallace asked the Minister for Health the position in relation to the identification of a spinal injury as a long-term illness; the circumstances under which his Department would consider that a spinal injury be anything other than a long-term illness; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9346/97]

Limerick East): The long-term illness scheme entitles persons to free drugs and medicines which are prescribed in respect of a specific schedule of illnesses. The original aim of the scheme was to ensure that persons with a scheduled long-term disability or disease which is treatable by drug therapy would not have to suffer expense in order to obtain their required drugs and medicines. The long-term illness scheme has not been extended since 1975 and there are no plans to change the scheme or to expand the number of illnesses covered by the scheme, having regard to the fact that the needs of individuals with significant or ongoing medical expenses are now met by a range of other schemes which provide assistance towards the cost of prescribed drugs and medicines.

Where an individual or a family is subjected to a significant level of ongoing expenditure on medical expenses, such as general practitioner fees or prescribed drugs due to a long-term medical condition such as spinal injury, these expenses may be reckoned in determining eligibility for a medical card. In some cases a medical card may issue to a family member on a personal basis. Eligibility for a medical card is solely a matter for the chief executive officer of the relevant health board to decide.

Persons who suffer from an ongoing medical condition can avail of the drug cost subsidisation scheme which caters for people who do not have a medical card or a long-term illness book and are certified as having a medical condition with a regular and ongoing requirement for prescribed drugs and medicines. Persons who qualify for inclusion in this scheme will not have to spend more than £32 in any month on prescribed medication.
Under the drugs refund scheme which covers expenditure by the whole family, any expenditure on prescribed medication above £90 in a calendar quarter is refunded by the health board.
I am satisfied that appropriate and comprehensive support is being provided by the State through the existing range of drug schemes to those with medical expenses arising from conditions such as spinal injury. Accordingly, I have no plans to extend the number or range of illnesses currently covered by the long-term illness scheme.