Last year, the Taoiseach made an apology regarding discretionary medical cards. He apologised to the people and stated that the Government had to take remedial action to make up for the unintended consequences of the savage review that was in train at the time. He stated that the Government had announced a new plan that would bring flexibilities, local input and discretion. Certainly, there were improvements and many people had their discretionary medical cards restored. Nevertheless, I put it to the Taoiseach that there are still very serious issues with quite a number of children who have very serious conditions and illnesses.
I know of a case involving a nine year old girl with B-cell lymphoma, which is a very rare cancer. The story is in the public domain. She has had surgery and intensive chemotherapy but despite considerable submissions to the HSE, she has been denied a discretionary medical card. We pursued the issue when we heard about it. She is under the care of a medical team in Crumlin which has also made submissions to the HSE. The mother has had to give up work and the issue has caused immense strain and anxiety. I put it to the Taoiseach that parents should never be put in this position, particularly when children have such serious conditions. Last week, a family travelled from Mayo with their 18 month old son, Ryan, who has Down's syndrome and also has a significant cardiac condition, apnea, and so forth. They were accompanied by the Our Children's Health campaign. The Taoiseach wrote to Ryan's mother, Nichola, indicating that he trusted the issue would be resolved to her satisfaction as soon as possible.
This year, it is intended to roll out free GP care for children aged under six. That is fine. Many people cannot comprehend how two young people in this position, in one case the child is over six but in the other the child is 18 months old, can still be denied full medical cards despite all the talk of flexibility and applicability of local inputs. This is happening while perfectly healthy children aged under six are to receive free GP care towards the end of the year.
Will the Taoiseach ensure that what he stated last year will apply and there will be common sense and flexibility applied to very serious cases? I should not have to raise such cases on Leaders' Questions and I am only doing so because it is the last opportunity I have to achieve some realism and common sense in the two cases I mentioned. I have been working on the case of the nine year old child for some time now. Yesterday, officials indicated it would be another year before the discretionary card system would be in place. I do not think that is correct. Perhaps it was a reference to the new flexibility or the new medical panel. Children in these cases cannot wait. I ask the Taoiseach to intervene. How can he justify rolling out the programme for children aged under six while at the same time denying a medical card to children who are over six years?