Thursday, 21 October 2021
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
Primary Medical Certificates
I thank the Deputy for raising this very important matter today. I am glad to take the opportunity to set out the position regarding the assessment process for primary medical certificates.
A primary medical certificate is a requirement for the disabled drivers and disabled passengers (tax concessions) scheme. This scheme is underpinned by statute and comes under the remit of the Department of Finance and the Revenue Commissioners. The extent of the involvement of HSE community medical doctors in the scheme relates to making a clinical determination as to whether an individual applicant meets the specified criteria.
Following a Supreme Court decision of June 2020, the assessment process for primary medical certificates was suspended at the request of the Minister for Finance. On the enactment of the Finance Act 2020, which provided for the medical criteria in primary legislation, the Health Service Executive, HSE, was informed that assessments could recommence from 1 January 2021. This has proceeded in the context of restoring services in a Covid-19 environment.
The Health Service Executive community services has developed a prioritisation framework, which enables staff to be deployed where necessary. The ability to hold assessments for primary medical certificates has been affected by, among other factors, the key role played by community medical doctors in the national Covid-19 response.
The Health Service Executive has confirmed that community medical doctors and their teams were predominantly deployed to the Covid vaccination roll-out in residential care facilities and other healthcare settings. Community doctors were also required to undertake school immunisations, which were identified as a priority for the HSE.
If an applicant's case clearly meets the strict criteria that govern the primary medical certificate, a community medical doctor may be in a position to grant it, with supporting documentation from a consultant, without an in-person assessment. However, the majority of applications are not clear cut and need an in-person medical examination to make an adjudication. The HSE has informed me that progress on assessments has been made, with more than 1,270 assessments undertaken up to the end of June this year. I am glad to outline the background and current position on this important matter to the House today. I acknowledge what the Deputy said in that these people want to get on with their lives, get into their cars, do their shopping, meet their relations and travel again. I hope this may be of some assistance.