Regional director of operations with HSE West, John Hennessy, has said he would like to see medical card applications dealt with as much as possible on a local basis, rather than under the newly centralised system that has been introduced to new headquarters in Finglas, Dublin.
Mr Hennessy was commenting during a discussion on delays in processing medical cards at the HSE West forum meeting last week. Roscommon councillor Tony Warde said many constituents with high mortgages and those out of work were coming to him in despair waiting for medical card applications to be processed.
“I would like to see the local health centre as the place where the majority of the problems can be sorted out. There are 3,000 contacts per day being received by the Finglas office which would overwhelm any system, so it would be preferable if we could deal with most of those queries locally and have online access to update relevant applications,” said Mr Hennessy, who recalled that under the old system there was a processing office in every county, but now there is just one in Dubin where economies of scale and IT systems had been introduced. He added that the issue had received national attention in recent weeks; there had been backlogs and instances of documentation going missing; there was an undertaking to deal with this and some of the changes have been implemented; more self assessment; more streamlined reviewing of existing cards and improved communications with the Finglas national office.
Mr Hennessy continued: “The idea is to get solutions here at local health centres with better IT links in order to get the best from both worlds, a central processing unit accompanied with more local information and problem solving.
“I think it has been well acknowledged nationally that the downturn in the economy has put increased pressure on the system. The Minister gave an undertaking the backlog would be cleared by May and we are working to honour this.”
Cllr Warde said: “I would be dealing with a lot of people, who are sick, or who may have lost their job and they’re telling me they may be waiting six months for medical card applications to be processed. I have to ask, what was wrong with the old system? I never had a problem with it as a councillor since day one, but all I see now are complications after complications. There wasn’t a single word about them until the processing went to Finglas under centralisation. We have seen all the powers taken out of rural areas and up to Dublin. The simple issue is they won’t be able to deal with all of the applications there.”