Written answers

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Department of Health and Children

Medical Cards

9:00 pm

Photo of Ulick BurkeUlick Burke (Galway East, Fine Gael)
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Question 184: To ask the Minister for Health and Children the criteria involved in the decision to remove the issuing of medical cards to older persons from local health board offices to Finglas, Dublin 11; the reason for the implementation of this new scheme; the number of staff that have been put in place to administer this new scheme; the number of additional staff that have been put in place to try and clear the log jam in the system; the reason for the inefficiencies and mismanagement of the scheme in view of the upset and distress that these delays have caused to older persons; if it has been cost effective for the Health Service Executive taking into account that the over 70 years scheme accounts for less than 10% of all medical cards; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2368/10]

Photo of Mary HarneyMary Harney (Minister, Department of Health and Children; Dublin Mid West, Independent)
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The Health Service Executive, with my full support, has decided to centralise the processing of all medical card and GP visit card applications and renewals at its Primary Care Reimbursement Service (PCRS) in Dublin.

The process commenced in January 2009 when the PCRS took over the processing of all medical card applications for persons aged 70 or over.

The second phase commenced in September 2009 with the transfer of the case load from two local health offices (LHOs) in Dublin to the PCRS.

The HSE has advised that the transfer of the case load from the two LHOs included a backlog of some 6,500 cases. These are being dealt with as a matter of urgency by the PCRS. As a result, resources which would have been deployed in customer relations and phone answering have been assigned to deal with this backlog. The HSE is providing additional resources to respond to phone queries, the majority of which relate to the outstanding applications.

In 2009, the PCRS processed over 72,000 medical card applications. This included nearly 42,000 reviews. In relation to these reviews, 85% of cases where the required information was supplied were completed within 20 days and 95% within 30 days. The HSE has no control over delays where relevant information is not provided but it has confirmed that when the required information is received, the review is processed without further delay.

The HSE intends to transfer the processing of all new medical / GP visit card applications and new reviews / renewals from the other LHOs to the PCRS in April this year.

Any applications / reviews received before the date of transfer will be dealt with by the relevant LHO. The HSE is currently putting arrangements in place to track the time taken by each local health office to process applications. I have asked for a report on this issue to be submitted to me by the end of this month.

The HSE has recently launched a facility - www.medicalcard.ie - where a person who has applied through the PCRS can view the status of their medical/GP visit card application or review online, using a unique reference number that is provided on the acknowledgement sent to them. If a mobile telephone number is supplied with the application/review, an acknowledgement of receipt and the application status/progress of the case will automatically be delivered to the applicant by text message as their case proceeds through the assessment process. The PCRS is also finalising the development of a facility which will allow people to apply on-line if they wish.

The HSE has advised that when fully implemented, the initiative to centralise the processing of all medical card and GP visit card applications and renewals will ensure:

Improved turnaround times for processing of applications: under the new arrangements the HSE will be aiming for a turnaround time of 15 working days or less, with provision for emergency applications to be dealt with immediately; Consistent and equitable application of eligibility and service provision; Clearer governance and accountability, as well as improved management information; and A reduction in the overall number of staff required to process medical/GP visit card applications, thus freeing up staff for other service needs.

My Department has been in discussion with the HSE about putting in place a dedicated telephone number for Oireachtas members for enquiries about applications being processed by the PCRS. A letter has issued to all Oireachtas members yesterday in this regard.

The most recent figures provided to my Department by the HSE show that there were 1,478,560 medical card holders on 31st December 2009, approximately 23% of whom are persons aged 70 or over.

The other issues raised by the Deputy are operational matters. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to address these matters and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Photo of Ulick BurkeUlick Burke (Galway East, Fine Gael)
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Question 185: To ask the Minister for Health and Children the number of persons in County Galway, city and county, who are medical cards holders for each of the years 2007, 2008 and 2009; the number of other medical cards holders in the county; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2371/10]

Photo of Mary HarneyMary Harney (Minister, Department of Health and Children; Dublin Mid West, Independent)
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The Health Service Executive (HSE) has the operational and funding responsibility for the medical card and GP visit card benefits. It collates medical card and GP visit card data by county, age and gender. Therefore, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to address this matter and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

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