This Topical Issues matter concerns the need to address the delays in processing medical card applications. It is no reflection on the staff working in the medical card section. I compliment the staff, in particular, those dealing with the receipt, registration and processing of medical card applications. My office is in touch with them daily and find them to be very courteous and helpful. My office and I also appreciate the work being done by staff dealing with urgent and emergency medical card applications. My office also deals with them on a regular basis and find them to be professional, helpful and courteous.
I am making a plea for additional staff for the processing of medical card applications as there is a serious delay in the registration and logging of new applications and further information. I will give some examples, of which there are many. I refer to the standard application received from a single person, whose only income is jobseeker's allowance and who forwarded an application on 31 October. Notification of receipt was received by email on 31 October. On 14 November the application had not even been logged on the system.
Another example involves a request for further information. The information was sent on 10 October. Again, receipt was acknowledged very quickly on 11 October, but on Friday, 9 November its registration and logging had still not been completed.
I have another example of a request for further information. It dates from 12 November. Receipt of the additional information was also acknowledged quickly on 15 November, but as of today, 21 November, it has not been logged on the system for the processing team which was only dealing with information dating from 9 November.
In the logging and registration of applications there is a serious delay of two to three weeks and more in some cases. The delays are significant and causing distress and concern for applicants. I will give an example of what can happen. There was a case recently where further information was sent by an applicant. Its receipt was acknowledged by email, but a few days later the applicant receiving a letter requesting that the further information be sent or the medical card would be withdrawn. The applicant came back into my office. It was again confirmed that the information had been received, but it had not been logged on the system. It led to the medical card being withdrawn.
There is a serious issue in the registration of applications and additional information. It is taking two to three weeks and sometimes longer for registration to happen. It is causing major delays and the only reason is the lack of staff to deal with the work involved. Will the Minister of State talk to the Health Service Executive to ensure additional staff will be put in place to make sure applications are dealt with efficiently and speedily? The lack of a medical card can give rise to major difficulties and great distress for applicants.