The Government is being urged to automatically grant medical cards to children with severe disabilities.
The call comes from national campaign, Our Children's Health, which is working to ensure that any child diagnosed with a serious illness or congenital condition is entitled to a full medical card for the duration of their illness.
The campaign has emphasised the fact that if the Government goes ahead with its plans to introduce free GP care for all children under the age of six, ‘the prospect that a child with a very serious medical condition will continue to be refused a medical card, while a younger healthy sibling will be awarded free GP care, looks set to become a reality'.
"For the parents we represent, that amounts to a ridiculous situation. Having looked at this issue for some time, we are now calling on Government to automatically grant every child in receipt of the Domiciliary Care Allowance a full medical card," it said.
Around 26,000 children in Ireland are currently in receipt of this allowance. These children have already been deemed by the State to have a ‘disability so severe that the child requires care and attention substantially in excess of another child of the same age'.
The campaign noted that unlike the medical card, this allowance is not based on parents' means, but instead focuses on the child's lack of function of body or mind resulting from their condition.
Currently, children with life-long disabilities, life-limiting or life-threatening conditions that last for more than one year routinely qualify.
"We estimate that the majority of the 26,000 have medical cards, however a substantial minority do not. Any additional resources should be targeted in the first instance at this cohort - children that qualify for this allowance, but are ruled ineligible for a medical card," the campaign said.
It insisted that it has no objection in principal to the provision of free GP care for children under the age of six. However, it said that to roll this out when many children with the most serious conditions are being refused medical cards ‘is simply unjust'.
"Extending medical cards to all children meeting the medical criteria for the Domiciliary Care Allowance would go a long way to addressing this inequity and remove many of the difficulties parents have with the medical card application process," the campaign commented.
It said that linking the medical card to this allowance would, for the first time, remove parents' means from the medical card application process, shifting the focus to the children's medical need.
This would ‘significantly reduce if not eliminate the likelihood that any child with a very serious medical condition is refused (a medical card) in the future'.