By Niall Hunter-Editor
Appropriate public information systems should be put in place in the health service to advise people of their entitlements, according to the Ombudsman.
In the Ombudsman's latest annual report, a case is outlined where a person with diabetes was not advised of his possible entitlement to a diet income supplement; a payment made under Supplementary Welfare Allowance regulations.
The patient concerned had been attending a diabetes clinic at his local hospital since1993, but was only made aware of his entitlement to a subsidy for his prescribed diet in 2003.
He received six months payment arrears but felt he should have received further arrears given that he had suffered from diabetes since 1992.
Eventually, after intervention from the Ombudsman, the man received an ex-gratia payment of €1,500 as compensation.
The Ombudsman's report states that over the years the office has received many complaints from people who were unaware of the existence of particular entitlements, and most only became aware through a third party.
In these cases, when the people eventually got the allowances or subsidies concerned, arrears were refused, even though the complainants had ever been given any indication that such an allowance existed.
The Ombudsman's report points out that the general public does not have the same level of familiarity with schemes and services as health service staff.
"It is important, therefore, to ensure that there are appropriate public information systems in place to advise individuals of their possible entitlements. This is particularly so where the Health Service Executive is engaging professionally with disabled or vulnerable individual," the Ombudsman says.
Following the diet supplement case, information leaflets were published for distribution widely through health services so that other people could be informed of possible entitlements, according to the report.
The Ombudsman states that such complaints are a good example of how a learning process can be generated from them out of which improvements should be made and the HSE's actions in dealing with the case are acknowledged in the report.
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As a Diabetic I was refused the Diet Supplement by my HSE on the basis my 2 Diet cost requirements per week set at approx 44 euro each by the HSE wasn't 1/3 more than my weekly social welfare payment and didn't take into consideration my outgoings on a weekly basis for Diesel which has significantly risen due to the increasing prices Loan Repayments extended to pay for medical expenses and my own individual diet requirements and on the basis that at the time I was residing with my mother and the HSE are attempting to abolish claims for Diet Supplements and then due to receiving Rent Supplement when I moved into an Apartment I couldn't claim it either and one reason I moved was mainly because my mother couldn't and wouldn't receive the Home Help Service and other services whilst I was residing in the home with no consideration by the HSE Management for my own particular wide-ranging syndrome with chronic daily pain and attempting to provide 24/7 care and functioning on 2 hours sleep per night over a seven day week. Maybe they should try managing it all on a basic payment to exist not live a lavish lifestyle and I was certified as having to follow two diets when I could also add and quote a third. A single necatarine costs approx 89 cents and a punnet of 5/6 about 3.90 most of which are rotten by the time you get to consume them. Add to that the cost of other fruits for a week and other food items required and how far will their estimate of 44 euro go.