Tuesday, 5 October 2010
Department of Health and Children
Question 26: To ask the Minister for Health and Children the reasons that medical card applications in the south Dublin area are taking approximately 20 weeks to be processed when submitted manually while on-line applications are taking two weeks; her views on whether this is an excessive period of time; her further views on whether this discriminates against persons who are not computer literate and those who do not have access to the Internet; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33854/10]
The Health Service Executive (HSE), with my full support, decided to centralise the processing of all medical cards and GP visit card applications and renewals to its Primary Care Reimbursement Service (PCRS) in Dublin. In January 2009, the PCRS took over the processing of all medical card applications for persons aged 70 or over. In September 2009, the processing of all applications from two Local Health Offices in Dublin transferred to the PCRS.
In June 2010, the HSE introduced a new website, www.medicalcard.ie, which enables people anywhere in the country to apply for a medical card through a simple and efficient online application process. Online assessments are immediate and for applicants who supply all evidence/documentation and are eligible on income grounds, medical card delivery is guaranteed within 15 days of receipt of the completed application pack. The HSE has also made provision for emergency applications to be dealt with immediately. The PCRS is receiving approximately 3,000 applications each week via this new channel, with more than 50% of these being made outside normal office hours.
Significant progress has been made in this national project in providing an improved service to the public at less cost to the State. Up to 17th September 2010 the centralised office at the PCRS has processed over 204,657 medical card applications and reviews and issued 165,407 medical cards. The next phase of the project will move the processing of all new applications to the Central Office following a consultative process with staff representatives in line with the recent agreement on pay and reform in the public service. As the centralisation process continues, more initiatives will be introduced and the current initiatives will continue to be enhanced as the HSE receives feedback and continues to engage closely with advocacy groups, staff, public representatives and primary care contractors.
When the centralisation process is finalised, staff in Local Health Offices will continue to have access to the national system and will be available to help clients with enquiries about their application or review and will also be able to deal with queries of a general nature about the medical card scheme. In relation to concerns raised by the Deputy regarding the south Dublin area, I understand that a backlog of medical card applications has accrued in some Local Health Offices and I have asked the HSE to address this issue as a matter of urgency.