Pre-Budget 2022 2

‘I pay €80 per hospital visit – bills are constantly coming through the door’: Cancer patient calls for end to inpatient charges amid cost of living squeeze

  • Mum-of-five living with incurable cancer: ‘Paying inpatient charges for treatment, meds, back-to-school costs – it’s all too much’
  • Call echoed by the Irish Cancer Society which is calling for a raft of other measures in the upcoming Budget on top of the removal of inpatient charges

A woman living with incurable cancer has told of her impossible struggle paying charges for cancer treatment amid the cost of living crisis.

While many in society are feeling the crunch from rocketing inflation, mum-of-five Linda Bowdler (45) from Dublin and others like her must contend with charges of €80 each time she visits a hospital for essential, life-prolonging treatment.

After receiving a temporary medical card following her initial diagnosis of bowel cancer in 2021, social worker Linda later returned to part-time employment. This meant she had to pay full charges for treatment and medications.

She has issued an impassioned plea for Government to reduce the ‘impossible’ burden for her and others impacted by cancer in the upcoming Budget:

“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,” said Linda, who is now reliant on social welfare as she continues her treatment.

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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?’

Cancer patient Linda Bowdler
linda b

On the ‘hidden’ costs associated with cancer, Linda said: “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.”

Her calls are echoed by the Irish Cancer Society which is calling for a raft of other measures in the upcoming Budget on top of the removal of inpatient charges. These include caps on prescription charges, as well as an end to hospital car parking charges and the brutal practice of pursuing patients with debt collectors.

Pointing to the organisation’s Pre-Budget Submission to Government, 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.

“On top of essential measures to provide a cost of living lifeline to patients, we need to see further action including a €30m boost to the National Cancer Strategy to help struggling services. As well as this, a dedicated investment of €15m is needed to beat pandemic-era backlogs, and a concerted effort to futureproof our healthcare system and give patients the best chance of surviving cancer, through timely access to tests and treatments.

Read the Society's full Pre-Budget Submission here: