On 26th April 2012, her mother’s Birthday and a month before her 7th Birthday, Louise Shortall was diagnosed with Leukaemia. Within 24 hours she started what was the first of 112 weeks of chemotherapy and specified, varied treatment. That defined amount of time depended on everything running smoothly and without stoppages and breaks which are common.
In the first few days the social work department in the hospital advised Louise’s parents to apply for a Medical Card for their daughter. None of the family had ever had a Medical Card before. The HSE informed them that they had to apply for medical cards for the whole family. There was no option to apply for a Medical Card for the child independently even though no one else in the family required or requested a Medical Card.
Accordingly they gathered together the many and various documents required for each application including payslips, mortgage statements, letters from employers and so on. Within the first few weeks of the application there was very regular contact with the Medical Card office, clarifying and trying to execute what was turning out to be complicated and time consuming process. Louise was issued with a temporary 6 month card while the full family application was being processed.
It turned out that the initial whole family application would take 19 months to process after which a full medical card for Louise was refused. During those first 19 months Louise’s Parents were required to repeat the lenghty and stressful application process a further three times more for their daughter just so as she could have her temporary medical card. During this time documents were lost, had to be re-sent and very often Medical Card staff demonstrated little knowledge of the case and were unable to offer any information about when the application would be processed fully.
However in December 2013 after 19 months Louise was no longer entitled to a full Medical Card. Her family were sent five GP only cards. On the basis that Louise cannot attend her GP because she is treated exclusively by a consultant led team in Hospital, the family appealed the Medical Card decision. A month later they were sent 5 more GP only cards without explanation.
Within days of this second dispatch the local clinic informed Louise’s mother that they could no longer process her prescriptions because her daughter’s card had been cancelled. And so began the process once again to reinstate her Medical Card.
Following the intervention of several politicians a review of the case was initiated. During such reviews medical card accounts are reactivated. The review process can take up to 6 months. Louise was posted a full medical card in April 2014 that would last one year. Her family will need to apply for a card again in early 2015 because even though her cancer treatment will be finished there will be other legacy issues which will continue longer than the current medical card lasts.