Dáil Éireann - Volume 525 - 07 November, 2000
Written Answers. - Medical Cards.
Mr. Aylward Mr. Aylward
502. Mr. Aylward asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will have a medical card automatically granted to children with congenital heart problems as soon as they are diagnosed; if he will have finance made available to clear the backlog of children with this serious illness awaiting operations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24229/00]
Mr. Martin Mr. Martin
Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): Entitlement to health services in Ireland is primarily based on means. Under the Health Act, 1970, determination of eligibility for medical cards is the responsibility of the chief executive officer of the appropriate health board. Medical cards are issued to persons who, in the opinion of the chief executive officer, are unable to provide general practitioner medical and surgical services for themselves and their dependants without undue hardship.
Having regard to the above, I do not feel it justifiable, nor did previous Ministers or Governments, on health policy grounds, to extend an automatic entitlement to a medical card to any specific group without any reference to their means. I should point out, however, that the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness refers to the fact that health board chief executive officers are examining the operation of the medical card scheme and will consult with the social partners by the end of 2000. Particular emphasis will be placed on the needs of families with children, and on removing anomalies and barriers to take-up, including information deficits.
Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin is the national paediatric cardiac centre and my Department has been aware that there has been concern over waiting times for children in this speciality. The development of this speciality at the hospital has been the subject of discussions with my Department and the hospital for some time.
I want to assure the Deputy that I am committed to ensuring that Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children is in a position to respond to the need for their cardiology/cardiac surgery services. In this regard, the Deputy may wish to note that my Department has sanctioned a major theatre development at the hospital. This development, when completed, will provide five new operating theatres complete with ancillary accommodation, a day surgery area and a central sterile supplies department. The existing theatre facilities will also be upgraded to provide a further two theatre suites. When these theatres are fully commissioned it is expected the hospital will be in a position to perform an additional 100 paediatric cardiac procedures per annum, which is an increase of 40 per cent on its existing capacity.  This project is expected to cost in the region of £20 million. In addition, my Department has approved the appointment of an additional consultant cardiothoracic surgeon who I understand commenced duty at the hospital in August of this year.
I am confident that the implementation of the above measures will enable Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children to provide enhanced cardiac surgery services for all children within the country.
Dáil Éireann 525 Written Answers. Medical Cards.