Ceann Comhairle hits out at Department of Health ‘unadulterated fudge’

Seán Ó Fearghaíl urges TD to complain about response over GPs charging for blood tests

The Ceann Comhairle has urged a TD to make a formal complaint about a Department of Health response to her queries about the cost of blood tests, describing the reply as “an unadulterated fudge”.

Sean O Fearghaíl said he has responsibility to adjudicate on complaints from TDs about official responses to parliamentary questions or to topical issue matters when issues of the day are raised.

“I would certainly welcome a complaint about this response because, while I do not in any way blame the Minister of State, who always comes to the House to do his very best, it seemed to be nothing more than an unadulterated fudge.”

Minister of State Frankie Feighan had read the official response to the issue raised by Carlow Fianna Fail TD Jennifer Murnane O'Connor who raised concerns about some GPs charging medical card patients for blood tests when they should be free under the GMS (General Medical Services) contract.


Ms Murnane O’Connor said the only way to have these charges refunded “is to write a letter to the HSE seeking it”. She said a patient should not have to compose and sent a letter explaining why they sought the test, adding that seven requests for refunds were sent last year to the HSE and all seven were refused.

She also described as “unacceptable” a situation going on for the past year where dentists have refused to take a patient’s medical card.

Discretionary charge

Mr Feighan, reading the official response said there is no provision “for persons who hold a medical card or GP visit card to be charged for routine phlebotomy services provided by their GP that are required to assist either in the diagnosis of illness or in the treatment of a condition”.

But he added: “Notwithstanding that the Minister [for Health Stephen Donnelly] is aware that some GPs are charging GMS patients for phlebotomy services in some instances.

“The issue of charging GMS patients for phlebotomy services is complex, given the numerous reasons and circumstances under which blood tests are taken.”

A GP has discretion to charge for a blood test which the patient requests but is not clinically necessary.

The patient can apply for a full refund but “given the complexity of the issue, it is not possible to further streamline the process of seeking refund for blood test charges”.

The Ceann Comhairle said he would welcome a complaint about the reply which he said “seemed to be nothing more than an unadulterated fudge”.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times