Sinn Féin TD for Louth and East Meath Imelda Munster has today expressed fury at reports from women in the Louth area who have been told that the free smear tests promised by Simon Harris in the wake of the Cervical Check scandal will cost up to €85 if women elect to have their smear tests analysed in this state, rather than outsourced to American labs.
Deputy Munster said:
“I received calls today from women in my constituency who were outraged to learn from their GPs this week that they would have to pay €85 for a repeat smear test, despite claims made by Ministers Simon Harris and Regina Doherty that free smear tests would be available for all women who had concerns about the Cervical Check scandal and wished to take an additional test.”
“In cases where women choose for their lab work to be carried out in this state, they have been asked to pay €50 for a GP visit and €35 for the smear test.”
“For reasons that must be obvious even to the government since Vicky Phelan went public with her story, many women in Ireland have lost confidence in the outsourcing of lab tests to the United States, and would prefer that their tests be carried out at home.”
“It is disingenuous of Simon Harris to announce that these repeat tests are free, when in fact they are not”.
“It is clear that despite all the hurt, damage, and deaths that this scandal has caused, that the government has learned absolutely nothing.”
“After all that’s happened the government should arrange to have free smear tests carried out and tested in Ireland. It’s the least they could do.”
Imelda Munster TD is outraged at recent HSE correspondence to haemochromatosis patients who attend the venesection clinic in Louth advising that from 1st September 2017 a charge of €80 per visit would begin with a maximum charge of €800 annually.
The Sinn Féin TD said: “Whilst medical card holders are exempt from this levy, it puts an unfair burden on people who have been diagnosed with this condition. The financial means of these patients are not taken into account, though they may be just over the limit required for access to a medical card”.
Imelda Munster explained that “Haemochromatosis is a life-long chronic illness and patients need regular venesections (the taking of blood) to keep their iron levels in check and to remain healthy.
“This charge of up to €800 a year could well prevent people from attending the venesection clinic which in turn will lead to patients potentially suffering from cirrhosis of the liver due to the build-up of iron, and other serious health problems.
“Given that this is a life-long chronic illness, it needs to be designated under the Long-Term Illness scheme. The health system doesn’t take into account a person’s ability to pay. The income thresholds for qualifying for a medical card are relatively low, and for people who sit just above that limit, this is an unfair and exorbitant charge.
“I have written to the Minister asking him to include haemochromatosis on the Long-Term Illness scheme so that people who require this ongoing treatment are not deterred from accessing it due to financial hardship. I hope that the Minister realises that this is an equality of access issue, and that the current situation is not fair for patients who are struggling to pay for this necessary treatment.”
Sinn Féin TD Imelda Munster has urged the government not to introduce a €50 annual charge for the Free Travel Pass, as proposed in an internal government report which was recently released to the media.
Other proposals in the report include a move towards reduced fares rather than free fares, and a review of the medical requirements for companion passes for people who cannot travel alone.
Deputy Munster said:
“Over 1.2 million are entitled to the free travel pass and it is estimated that under half of those are in receipt of a state pension, over 20% qualify for disability payment, and 7% are carers”.
“The free travel pass provides free travel for pensioners, people with disabilities and carers. It provides a vital service for people to who have already contributed to society who need this pass to attend hospital appointments, for people with disabilities, ensures against isolation for people in rural areas and also social inclusion for those who qualify”.
“The vast majority of people in receipt of the travel pass rely on it for the majority of their travel needs, and it is vital that it is protected and that it remains a free travel pass”.
Deputy Munster said:
“We have seen too often where a charge is brought in such as the prescription charge it can increase five fold within a matter of a few years. I have written to the Minister urging him to give an absolute commitment to retaining the free travel pass and have questioned the reasons or motives behind the leaking of the report to the media”.