Thomas Pringle TD

Pringle calls for urgent review of process for primary medical certificates

Thomas Pringle calls for urgent review of process for primary medical certificates

Independent TD for Donegal, Thomas Pringle, has called for an urgent review of the process for obtaining primary medical certificates.

Deputy Pringle raised the issue in the Dáil on Tuesday night during a topical issue debate.

Primary medical certificates, issued by the HSE, are required for the purposes of the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers Regulations 1994 and automatically qualify people for a disabled parking permit. The certificate also provides a tax relief or fuel rebate for disabled drivers and passengers and reliefs may also help disabled drivers adapt their vehicles.

Deputy Pringle said he has been led to believe the HSE are considering the matter of primary medical certificate assessments and said he hoped the review would come forward.

Deputy Pringle said: “I think there needs to be a new, functional scheme put in place without delay because there are many people who would benefit, and I think as a society we should be making sure that people can benefit from this.”

He cited two of the many cases he knows of where applications for the certificate had been refused. In one, for example, a man living with idiopathic Parkinson’s, severe cramping and involuntary movement, was told he would not qualify under the criteria in 2018. He had to take out a loan to get an automatic car because he was not fit to drive a manual transmission and even though he had a registered carer, no supports were available.

The deputy said many, many lives have been affected by the stringent Government policy and the archaic language it uses.

Deputy Pringle also said there is no review process for these applications.  He said while a person can appeal, they will have to travel to the Disabled Person Medical Board of Appeal in Dun Laoghaire to do that.

He said: “Before Covid it was taking a year for appeals to be heard and by that stage people in chronic pain can’t travel that distance. A review system should be set up and accessible in each county just like social welfare appeals that are called for oral hearings.”

Minister Sean Fleming confirmed that work on a reassessment was under way following a 2020 Supreme Court decision. He said the court decision also led to temporary measures put in place and a review group is to be established shortly.

Deputy Pringle said the Government ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities but not the optional protocol, “and then doesn’t provide the necessary resources to give disabled people rights.”

He said: “We talk about encouraging disabled people to participate in society but then we put barriers in their way. It’s not good enough – we need to address this.”

Deputy Pringle said: “Donegal is a rural and isolated county and has among the highest forced car-ownership among the population. Because Donegal is so badly served by public transport, what are disabled people supposed to do if they can’t get relief to purchase a vehicle?”

Deputy Pringle concluded: “I think it’s urgent that this is being reviewed and a proper system put in place to ensure that disabled people can access what should be theirs as a right.”

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