Dáil debates

Wednesday, 15 May 2024

Delivering Universal Healthcare: Statements


3:00 pm

Photo of Jennifer Murnane O'ConnorJennifer Murnane O'Connor (Carlow-Kilkenny, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I welcome universal healthcare. It is important, but I want to talk about the basic issues I face every day in my clinics. I have people with full medical cards coming in to me with some doctors charging them for their blood tests. I also have people applying for a grant. When people are aged 66 or over, they can apply to Carlow County Council for a housing adaptation grant or a grant for windows, doors or a bedroom extension. Some doctors charge them for their notes or medical reports. People with a full medical card cannot be paying for these extra letters or for bloods. It does not make sense.

There is another issue I deal with daily. We need to get these important issues sorted first. It is the number of people unable to access home help, dental, orthodontic, physiotherapy, chiropody, podiatry; I could go on all day. For our system to work, we have to ensure people can access the services they need.

I will give an example. Two weeks ago, a lovely man came into my clinic. He worked all his life and, thank God, was never sick and never needed anything. He came of age to qualify for a full medical card. I had to try to find that man a doctor because he was never in need of a doctor. To qualify for a medical card, an applicant must have a doctor, and this man never had one. We went to a lot of doctors to try to help him before we could get one.

On the last occasion, I was going to contact the HSE. We need to make sure that the services on the ground are staffed.

To go back to the issue of blood tests, which is the biggest issue for me, I contacted the HSE a few weeks ago - I am contacting it all of the time – to be told that if people have a full medical card, they should send in the receipt and it will refund them. However, it does not work that way. People are waiting for so long that they could have three or four blood tests done. I ask the Minister of State to look at these services that are needed urgently.

I want to raise the issue of an injury clinic for County Carlow. I met recently with the HSE and it has told me that Carlow will be getting an injury clinic. That is very welcome because at the last census, the population of County Carlow had grown by 9% and it is now nearly 62,000. The people of Carlow use Kilkenny Hospital all of the time and it is a great hospital, but Carlow needs its own injury unit. An example is the X-ray unit at St. Dympna’s, which provides a great service. That unit was recently done up but it is open just three days a week. I am writing to the HSE on this issue. People tell me they have to get a family member or a friend to drive them to Kilkenny to get X-rays because they cannot use that X-ray facility unless they wait a certain length of time. As the Minister knows, with the three-day opening, it is quite hard to get an appointment. These are the issues we need to look at and address.

If someone breaks a leg or something else happens, they might have to go to Kilkenny Hospital. If we had that injury clinic with beds in County Carlow, people could stay overnight and could access what they needed there. It is vital that we have these services in Carlow. From talking to people, I know that when they get into the system and meet their doctors or when they have to go for an operation, it is good because they then have a pattern of going back regularly. My biggest issue at the moment is trying to get people into the system. Like Deputy Connolly, I know of people who are going to the North for their operations because they have been so long on the waiting list. In the cases I have been working on, that has been very successful, which is welcome, but we need to recruit to make sure we look after the people who need it most.

As was said earlier, the good thing is that people are living longer but the problem is that the system is not able to cater for that. We need a proper universal health system that will cater for everyone. I know that good things are happening too and I do not want to be negative, but the issues I am bringing up today are issues I deal with daily in my clinics around County Carlow. I ask that we get some sort of system in place for those people who need it.


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