I'm waiting for kidney transplant but I can't afford to visit my GP
cost: Regina's medical card not renewed in five months
A young woman who is waiting for a kidney transplant told today how delays in renewing her medical card have left her unable to afford costly GP visits.
Regina Hennelly (29) has been waiting a staggering five months for her medical card to be renewed, after submitting the application to the HSE last September.
In the meantime, Regina, who works as a freelance journalist and writer, has been forced to fork out €120 a month for her medication.
And this will rise further to €132 from this month due to the new threshold limits for the Drugs Payment Scheme.
"I have not visited my GP in the past six months because I cannot afford to pay for a visit. This has undoubtedly placed me at a higher degree of risk.
"Due to my chronic condition, I should have received the flu injection for the winter, but this was another protection I could not afford," said Regina, who said she earns the average industrial wage.
Regina told the Herald: "I need to keep in the best health I can while I wait for a transplant."
But she pointed out she is less likely to go and check out "little niggly things" like a cold because of the costs involved.
"The big issue that annoys me is that I assumed that I would be refunded for my costs over the past six months for what I had to pay. But I have been told that I won't get back any of the money.
"My medical card expired on August 1 last year. I sent off all the paperwork at the end of that month, and it was received by the HSE at the start of September.
"I have learned that because my documentation was not received on July 31, there is no onus on the HSE to cover me for the costs I have incurred until the new one is issued, and who knows when that will be," said Regina.
She said she has rung the centralised medical card office in Finglas on several occasions but is still waiting for her card.
"My situation has not changed since my first medical card was issued three years ago. Renewing my medical card should require little or no administrative effort," said Regina, who is originally from Castlebar in Co Mayo and is now living in Dublin.
Regina has been on dialysis since June 2009. She said that she would hate to think that a HSE delay in approving medical card applications may be in order to save money.
"Is this how it is going to be? Are sick people going to deprived of care to save the State some money?" she said.
In its response, the HSE said: "There is no delay in the processing of medical cards. The HSE's Primary Care Reimbursement Service processes and issues approximately 15,000 medical cards per week."
It said there had been a vast improvement in processing times since the processing of medical card applications was centralised last year.
It said that at the central office, a medical card review notice is issued to all medical card clients three months in advance of the eligibility review date, in order to give clients sufficient time to complete the review and to provide evidence of income if required.