People with the blood disorder haemochromatosis, "should be treated like people with other long-term illnesses" and not be be forced to pay up €80 a week for vital treatment, according to a Galway TD.
More than 3,000 people in Galway suffer from haemochromatosis, a genetic disorder which results in too much iron being stored in the blood, and which can lead to organ failure if untreated. Treatment involves regular removal of blood, known as venesection, to reduce the amount of toxic iron in the body. It must be carried out in a hospital as often as once a week.
The condition is common in Ireland with some 60,000 sufferers. It is particularly prevalent in the west of Ireland. "Ireland probably has the highest incidence in the world which is why it’s often referred to as the 'Celtic Curse'," according to Independent Galway West TD Noel Grealish.
Dep Grealish has raised the issue in Dáil Éireann with the the Minister for Health, Simon Harris. in reply, the Minister said there were "no plans" to exempt people with haemochromatosis from a charge of €80 imposed by hospitals which carry out the procedure on on inpatient/day case basis.
Dep Grealish has criticised the Minister's stance, accusing him of "showing a lack of compassion". He said: "People with this disorder should be treated like people with other long-term illnesses who are entitled to free medication — they should not have to pay €80 every time they undergo a venesection. That involves a huge annual expense that they should not be expected to pay if we are serious about looking after vulnerable people in our society."