[Sinn Fein]

18th January 2002

Medical Card Scandal

Sinn Fein General Election Candidate Cllr. Joe Reilly has challenged the Minister for Health and Children and the members of the North Eastern Health Board to explain their miserly increase in the allowance guidelines for Medical Cards for 2002-2003

He said: ``An example of this scandal is that a married couples allowance last year was 144.50.For the coming year the guidelines have increased to 149.99 (E190.50) An increase of 4.99 (E6.34) The allowance for a child under sixteen has risen by all of .86cents to E24.00. All the various categories show that there has mealy mouthed rises in the allowances.''

He added: ``The present medical card guideline ensures that large number of people on low income are debarred from entitlement to a medical card. With visits to doctor surgery now costing E35, many low income families can not afford to bring their children for medical treatment. There is evidence that people have canceled operation because they are unable to meet the medical bills''.

He concluded: ``Elected Members of the NEHB must challenge Minister Martin on these guidelines. The Department of Health and Children's policy on Medical Cards is a sham and calls into question the reality of the recently launched Health Strategy Document. The Minister and the North Eastern Health Board must explain to the public why the present guidelines are barring parents and children from receiving medical treatment''

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