Cancer patients 'under siege financially'

Extra costs of up to 1,200 per month
  • Deborah Condon

Cancer patients can face extra costs of up to €1,200 per month, leaving them feeling ‘under siege financially', the Irish Cancer Society (ICS) has warned.

It has just launched its Budget 2020 submission, which calls on the Government to reduce the major financial strain being placed on patients and their families.

"Many families suffer a big drop in income when someone gets cancer. At the same time, they have to pay for everything from chemotherapy appointments to anti-nausea medication and hospital parking charges. With extra costs of up to €1,200 a month, they find themselves under siege financially, while also trying to manage the physical and psychological burden of having cancer," explained ICS chief executive, Averil Power.

The pre-budget submission is calling for a range of measures, including:
-The removal of inpatient charges, which currently cost €80 per visit up to a maximum of €800 a year
-A reduction in the Drugs Payment Scheme threshold from €124 a month to €100 for families and €72 for single people
-The removal of the prescription charge for medical card holders, which is currently €2 per item up to a maximum of €20 per person or family per month
-Reduced hospital parking charges for frequent visitors.

Marie Moran is a breast cancer survivor from Co Mayo. She faced inpatient charges while dealing with her cancer diagnosis during pregnancy.

"It was such a whirlwind. I was diagnosed with breast cancer 32 weeks into my pregnancy. It was such a stressful time for me, physically and emotionally, and to be landed with bills of €80 for each treatment session was a real shock. When bills quickly turned into final notices demanding payments, it caused me so much stress and worry at an already difficult time," she said.

Meanwhile, Gerry Carroll, a 57-year-old leukaemia survivor explained that as part of his treatment, he was an inpatient in Dublin's Beaumont Hospital for 115 days.

"During that time, my wife, Trish, came to visit me twice a day, five days a week. It cost her almost €1,200 in parking charges alone. That's a lot of money. If Trish was able to get free parking, or even a reduced rate, it would've been a great help to us," he said.

Ms Power emphasised that there is big public support for reducing the costs experienced by cancer patients and their families. For example, in a survey recently carried out by Core Research, almost three-quarters of people supported the removal of inpatient charges.

"It also found those on medical cards often don't take all their medication because they can't afford prescription charges, while more than one in two chose to pay for their child's medication ahead of their own.

"Unable to afford essential medicines, such as anti-nausea tablets, patients' suffer far worse side-effects from their cancer treatment than they should. This is incredibly unfair and must be addressed," Ms Power insisted.

The full Budget 2020 submission can be viewed here.


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