'Huge Struggle' | 

Dublin cancer patient says paying hospital bills is ‘impossible’ amid cost-of-living crisis

Social worker Linda Bowdler (45) was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2021.

Linda Bowdler

Neasa CumiskeySunday World

A mum-of-five with incurable cancer has told of her “impossible” struggle to afford hospital bills amid the cost-of-living crisis.

Social worker Linda Bowdler (45), from Dublin, initially received a medical card when she was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2021.

However, she later returned to part-time employment, meaning she had to pay full charges for treatment and medication.

She said that she and many others in her position are struggling to pay hospital charges for life-prolonging treatment as Ireland’s inflation continues to skyrocket.

“I recently had to give up work so I have applied for a medical card again. But keeping a family of five children while paying up to €800 a year for basic hospital care on a part-time wage has been a huge struggle. Paying inpatient charges for treatment, meds, back-to-school costs – it’s all too much.

“People can think that if you have cancer you’re automatically entitled to a medical card, but that’s not the case. Every time you’re kept in overnight it’s an €80 charge, and if they do a procedure it’s another €80.

“Bills are constantly coming through the door. Two came in at the same time the other week, and I just thought ‘oh my God, how can I afford this?’”

Linda explained that there are dozens of “hidden” costs associated with cancer.

“When you’re going on chemotherapy you need to get all your own steroids, your anti-sickness medication, you need a lot of mouthwash.

“When you go in for chemo you could be there from 8am to 7pm, so you need to get a childminder to pick them up from school and feed them.

“Social welfare isn’t a lot when you’ve a family and you’re going through treatment – the cost of living on top of cancer is all too much at the moment.”

The Irish Cancer Society is calling for the Government to consider the removal of inpatient charges in the upcoming Budget, as well introducing caps on prescription charges, ending hospital car parking charges, and abolishing the “brutal” practice of pursuing patients with debt collectors.

Irish Cancer Society Director of Advocacy, Rachel Morrogh, said: “Research has shown that patients take an €18k hit to their annual income when they are diagnosed with cancer.

“With 45,000 new cases diagnosed each year in addition to a community of over 200,000 survivors, the current crisis represents a huge collective burden that must be reduced.”

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