Deputy Thomas Pringle said Government must scrap inpatient charges for cancer patients, calling the current system of hounding patients for payment “a resounding disgrace.”
The Donegal TD said: “Surely the €4.3 million that has been thrown into debt collection could have found a more humane, not to mention a more efficient and effective purpose. Or perhaps I am misled in thinking the HSE has no other areas that require funding?”
Deputy Pringle addressed the Dáil yesterday to speak in support of the Social Democrats’ motion on hospital charges for cancer patients.
The deputy said: “The fact that people in Ireland who are diagnosed with cancer are not only faced with monetary hurdles, but actively hindered and hounded by their own Government, is a resounding disgrace.”
He said: “The very idea of a debt collector in any instance would be more than enough to scare, intimidate and stress any regular person. Imagine that level of fear and upset being laid on top of the shoulders of a person who is in the midst of battling one of life’s most physically and emotionally draining situations.”
The deputy cited a recent report by Irish Cancer Society, ‘The Real Cost of Cancer’, which notes the disastrous lived impact that a cancer diagnosis has on a person, their family and their income and finances.
Deputy Pringle said: “The Irish Cancer Society has also reported increasing problems for cancer patients applying for discretionary medical cards. This is completely unacceptable. The medical system is clearly not serving the people it was set up to serve and needs a complete overhaul.”
The deputy said cancer treatments are not limited to check-ups and a day in hospital to receive the treatment. He said: “For many, particularly in rural areas like Donegal, even just receiving treatment means travelling to a larger hospital hours away. This undoubtedly incurs parking fees, food, drink and often accommodation.”
Deputy Pringle credited the work of the Donegal-Galway cancer bus, the voluntary transport providers who bring patients from Donegal to Galway, calling the service vitally important to patients.
The deputy said: “That service relies on fundraising. In this day and age it just doesn’t bear thinking about.”
He also credited organisations that fund the limited but hugely important parental accommodation in children’s hospitals, but said there are still ancillary costs involved.
He said: “The report notes that monthly costs can run up to beyond €1000. Even without the additional costs involved, The Irish Cancer Society reports that cancer patients face a loss of €1500 per month on average.”
Deputy Pringle said: “It saddens and angers me that while we have charities and NGOs providing empathetic support, the Government is not only failing to do likewise, they are actively adding to the already huge burden that cancer patients and their families face.”
The deputy concluded: “Once again, I support this motion and call on the Government to abolish parking rates, or at the very least implement the promised cap on parking payments, ensure a complete overhaul of the medical card system, put an end to the debt collection and scrap the ridiculous €80 inpatient charge for cancer patients.”