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Cuts to allowances for mastectomy products to be reversed

The Minister for Health has directed the HSE to reverse cuts to allowances for specialised bras for women who have undergone a mastectomy.

Stephen Donnelly said that a new “threshold of support” could “lead to a number of women receiving less” allowances than previously.

The Department of Health said that the minister “has today asked the HSE to amend the procedures to ensure that no woman, either currently availing of the scheme or accessing it in the future, is at any financial loss as a result of these changes”.

The HSE said that it “will review the procedures in relation to this issue in line with what the minister has said”.

The news comes after women who have undergone mastectomies shared their stories with RTÉ’s Liveline over the course of two days.

‘Outrage and anger’

Speaking in the Dáil, Independent TD Marian Harkin described the “outrage and anger” the women and their families had expressed on the programme.

She decried the “mean-spirited and unacceptable” policy which will see a 50% cut to mastectomy bras, swimsuits and prostheses for those women.

“These medical devices are essential to help prevent lymphedema, and to give women just a little confidence to face the world,” Ms Harkin said, and she appealed for the Taoiseach to directly intervene.

In reply, Leo Varadkar said he had only become aware of the cuts yesterday.

“I’ve asked my staff to look into it,” he said. “Maybe there’s a good reason, but I would love to know what it is, quite frankly.

“I don’t support that kind of penny pinching, particularly when it involves people who are recovering from cancer.”

Catherine was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2020, and mastitis in 2023.

“The reason I got mastitis was because I wasn’t wearing the correct bra,” she told RTÉ’s Liveline.

“I was only advised, unfortunately, of the specialist service when I returned to clinic in November of last year.

“I now feel like a real woman again having a prosthesis and having a bra that fits me correctly and most importantly the mastitis has stayed at bay.”

Catherine was told yesterday of the cuts, meaning she would get only one specialist bra a year.

“How would you wear one bra for a whole year?” she asked.

The HSE defended the thinking behind the new procedures, saying that its “intention was to standardise the allowances”.

“The previous system was unfair and inequitable,” a statement read.

“However, we understand the point being made, and will review the system quickly to ensure the system is fair to everyone, and that no woman is at a loss as a result of changes.”

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