Almost 20,000 medical card applications have been refused in Cork in the past two years, it has been revealed.
While 21,337 people in Cork had medical cards as of January 1 this year, 18,293 other applications have been turned down since January 2017.
Figures disclosed at the Regional Health Forum showed that the number of medical card holders in Cork increased by around 4,000 between January 2017 and January 2019.
More than 6,000 applications from the Cork South Lee area were rejected between January 2017 and January 2019, according to figures released yesterday.
Meanwhile, 7,608 were rejected in the North Lee area for the same time period along with a further 2,113 in West Cork and 2,298 in North Cork.
However, Cork County councillor Danielle Twomey (SF) called for an overhaul of the system and recommended regular independent audits.
She raised the cases of five people in her constituency who she said struggled to renew their cards despite no new financial differences in their applications.
“From my own dealings with constituents, there have been at least five cases where when the time came to renew their medical cards, they were told they couldn’t as they were no longer entitled to them,” said Cllr Twomey.
“The only thing that would have changed in their circumstances is that they became ill.
“There were no changes in income of any kind,” she added.
“There was one case in particular that took months to sort out, going back and forth to the HSE for months with information that we had already sent in numerous occasions.
“They said they hadn’t got this information but we had emails to show we had sent it.
“We were sending bank statements and other documents three or four times.
“There was one case where an appeal was held up for two months because the Department wanted copies of a particular constituents house insurance policy.
“I don’t know what they need that for.
“I feel that in these cases, people are being fobbed off and it’s highly, highly unfair.”
Cllr Twomey described the medical card department as one of the “most difficult” to deal with within the health service.
“There is no communication between the staff,” she said.
“I think a total overhaul and regular independent audits need to take place because the frustration of dealing with this department is astronomical.”