I am grateful to the Ceann Comhairle for selecting for discussion the issue of discretionary medical cards. This important issue has surfaced during Leaders' Questions and in the Topical Issue Debate, most recently in May when Deputy Michael McNamara raised it with the Minister of State, Deputy Alex White. While I welcome the presence of the Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills, Deputy Ciarán Cannon, I would be much more appreciative if the Minister for Health, Deputy James Reilly, or the Minister of State with responsibility for medical cards, Deputy Alex White, were before the House.
I contacted the office of the Minister of State, Deputy White, today to discuss a specific case which illustrates the difficulty experienced by people applying for discretionary medical cards. While I am not sure if the Minister of State is aware of the circumstances, the case involves a young married man who is in employment, as is his wife, and has two progressive and incurable conditions, namely, multiple sclerosis and kidney failure. He was diagnosed with the conditions in 2008 and 2009, respectively, and thereafter granted, as was appropriate, a discretionary medical card by the Health Service Executive. His medical card was renewed in each of the subsequent years until 2012 when, under the administration of this Government, the HSE cancelled his card.
Having pursued this matter through parliamentary questions and direct correspondence with the HSE and Minister, I am informed the criteria for granting discretionary medical cards have not changed. While I am loth to raise on the floor of the House the details of an individual case, in this instance it demonstrates the problem many people are experiencing. The household income of the couple in question has declined because the sufferer of chronic illness and his wife have both had their wages cut. As both of the conditions from which he suffers are incurable and progressive, his condition has not improved. Despite this, the Government, through the Health Service Executive, has withdrawn his discretionary medical card. This is wrong and inhumane and I doubt very much the Minister would stand over the decision. I ask that the Minister review the individual case and ensure a proper and effective review is done of discretionary medical cards as they apply nationwide.
Earlier in the week, Deputy Gerry Adams referred to a case of a man of 102 years who had his medical card withdrawn. We also heard about the plight of cancer sufferers who consider themselves entitled to a discretionary medical card but have not been granted one. I have direct experience of small children, many of them under the care of the Jack and Jill Foundation, who have had medical cards withdrawn or experienced inordinate difficulties in having them awarded in the first instance.
We are all aware of the pressures and difficulties faced by the Department of Health. Something is wrong, however, if, on the one hand, the regulations governing discretionary medical cards have not changed and, on the other, discretionary medical cards are being withdrawn and applications from people who meet the criteria are being refused.