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Cash strapped Angry mum blasts HSE over delay in refunding her almost €5k for medicinal cannabis

The HSE are then meant to reimburse the family but so far they haven't received a cent and Deborah is irate at what she says is an unnecessary delay.


Abigail McQuillan with her angry mum Deborah

Abigail McQuillan with her angry mum Deborah

Abigail McQuillan with her angry mum Deborah

An angry mum has blasted the HSE over their delay in refunding her nearly €5k in medical fees she has paid out for vital medication for her 16-year-old daughter.

Teenager Abigail McQuillan, from the seaside village of Blackrock in Co Louth, suffers from Lennox Gastaut Syndrome, which is a severe form of epilepsy that causes violent seizures.

Since last June, she has been in receipt of medicinal cannabis which her parents, Deborah and Cathal Downey, buy under ministerial licence from a pharmacy in Newry, Co Down at a cost of €600 per month.

The HSE are then meant to reimburse the family but so far they haven't received a cent and Deborah is irate at what she says is an unnecessary delay.

She said: "At the moment my husband, who normally works in construction is on the pandemic payment and I am on carers' allowance as Abigail's full-time carer - so yes we could do with the money we spent being reimbursed.

"Abigail is on what is called the Medicinal Cannabis Access Programme, (MCAP), and the HSE is supposed to fund the entire cost of her medication but they haven't given us anything since it started.

"I wouldn't mind but I actually did them a favour in the first place, I was entitled to go anywhere in the EU to source the medication and most Irish people use The Hague in Holland.

"But when I found out that it cost €9,500 a month, including flights and accommodation to get it there I explored the UK avenue and sourced it for €600.

"I'm lucky I did, as I'd have some chance of getting €9,500 off them each month seeing as they still won't pay me the far smaller amount they owe me.

"They make me jump through hoops every month in terms of having to fill in reams and reams of paperwork.

"I'll give you one example, I have five days after I buy the medication to return a pile of documentation about it and the receipts for it to them, I am never late as you can bet your bottom dollar if I was they would use that as a reason to withhold payment.

"They insist on me having everything with them inside five days and yet they have left us waiting almost a year for our money.

"It is just loads and loads of documentation and red tape every single time, and if you ring them to ask where the money is - suddenly everyone you need to speak to is in a meeting.

"It's not as if there would be a huge backlog of cases for them to deal with either as there are only fifty people in the whole country on the scheme and I know from talking to them others are having this problem as well.

"This whole thing is starting to get to me I don't know if I am using the front door or the back door by times but the medication is a life changer for Abigail so I am not ever going to give up.

"The HSE need to know I am not going away I'll fight my case for as long as it takes."

When the health authority stopped taking her calls Deborah enlisted the help of local Sinn Féin TD, Ruaíri O'Murchu, and he has raised the matter in the Dáil.

He said: "My office has spoken to the HSE about this on multiple occasions and all we are told is that they need further information, but they never tell you what that information is.

"Deborah has dealt with all the appropriate bodies, we need the system streamlined as to how it is operating at the moment clearly does not appear to be working."

A HSE spokeswoman said: "We cannot comment on individual cases, however there is no statutory scheme for reimbursement of medicinal cannabis.

"The National Service Plan outlines the establishment of the Medical Cannabis Access Programme which the HSE anticipates will be established later this year.

"There are 16 people who hold a Ministerial Licence, receiving reimbursement support as they have one of the conditions set out in Schedule 2 of the relevant legislation.

'Reimbursement support has been provided in a uniform manner where all requested information has been provided to the HSE and therapeutic benefit has been demonstrated."

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