LAOIS-OFFALY TD Brian Stanley is strongly urging the HSE to make an immediate decision on the future of Abbeyleix and Shaen hospitals.
“The report from the public consultation process has been with the Minister for 6 months now,” Deputy Stanley said. “The number of patients in both hospitals has dropped to a critically low level. Abbeyleix has now only 24 patients and Shaen has just 26 and an increasing number of these are short term respite patients.
“Minister Reilly stated in Tullamore last November that he hoped to make a decision by Christmas and I’m sure he meant Christmas 2012,” he said. “It’s long past decision time now for the Government and the time for hiding behind reports is over.”
Dep Stanley also accused the Government of cynically sneaking in further restrictions on medical card qualification. He said that Oireachtas members were informed by the HSE that further restrictions in medical card eligibility are being introduced this month.
“According to the HSE it is amending the eligibility criteria relating to medical cards by removing Home Improvement Loan repayments. It is also excluding the first €50 per week from travel-to-work expenses from the medical card means test assessment,” he said.
He believes that the removal of the €50 allowance for travel costs for travel to work where public transport is not available and a car is required will hit many people living in rural areas of Laois and will result in the loss of medical cards for many of them.
“The income limits of €184 for a single person under 66 living alone, or €266 for a married couple or one parent family under 66, are already extremely low and these new restrictions will remove thousands of medical cards from vulnerable people. Another cut to health services has been sneaked in,” he said.
The Sinn Fein TD’s remarks are well timed, as a public meeting was held in Abbeyleix last night (Monday) on the future of the local hospital.