Tuesday, 14 February 2012
Department of Health
Question 642: To ask the Minister for Health if he will provide figures on the total number of annually diagnosed cases of systemic lupus erythematosus here for each year in the past decade; if his attention has been drawn to the average cost of treatment for a person diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus; his plans to include this chronic, long-term incurable disorder under the terms of the Health Service Executive long-term illness scheme; if not, the measures that exist to offset the continued costs for patients with the disorder; the measures the HSE have taken to make the public aware of the disorder; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7658/12]
Lupus is an uncommon condition, with 90% of cases occurring in women. The condition causes many different health problems ranging from mild to life-threatening. As there is no register of patients with lupus, it is not possible to provide a figure for the total number of annually diagnosed cases.
Patients with lupus are generally under the care of a rheumatologist and may also be seen by other specialists such as dermatologists. Any person may be referred to their local hospital by their GP. There is no estimate available of the average cost of treatment.
There are no plans at present for a national campaign to provide information regarding lupus. The HSE would be happy to make arrangements to meet the Lupus Patient Group. The HSE National Advocacy Unit will facilitate such a meeting and can be contacted at www.yourserviceyoursay.ie or 045 880400.
There are no plans to extend the list of conditions covered by the Long Term Illness Scheme. Under the Drug Payment Scheme, no individual or family pays more than €132 per calendar month towards the cost of approved prescribed medicines. The scheme significantly reduces the cost burden for families and individuals incurring ongoing expenditure on medicines.
In addition, people who cannot, without undue hardship, arrange for the provision of medical services for themselves and their dependants may be entitled to a medical card. In the assessment process, the Health Service Executive can take into account medical costs incurred by an individual or a family. Those who are not eligible for a medical card may still be able to avail of a GP visit card, which covers the cost of general practice consultation.
The current rates of payments are set out in the Health Professionals (Reduction of Payments to General Practitioners) Regulations 2010 (S.I. 638/2010). Under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2009, fees and allowances payable to GPs were reduced in 2009 and 2010.
Under the General Medical Services (GMS) Contract, GPs are eligible for a Rural Practice Allowance when they live and practise in an area with a population of less than 500, where there is not a town with a population of 1,500 or more within a three mile radius of that centre and where the HSE considers it necessary to pay an allowance to retain a doctor in the area. The current annual rural practice allowance is €17,530.89.
Under the Programme for Government, it is intended to develop a new contractual framework for GPs which will be more suited to current needs and will facilitate the planned development of Primary Care Services. Mechanisms for encouraging GPs to set up practices in rural and urban disadvantaged areas will be considered, as appropriate, in the context of this review of the GMS GP Contract.