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NRH board discussed ‘possible reputational damage’ from suspended appeals

By Catherine Reilly - 12th Jun 2023

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The National Rehabilitation Hospital’s (NRH) board discussed “possible reputational damage” to the hospital arising from the suspension of the Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal (DDMBA), according to minutes of a meeting last year.

The DDMBA is under the governance of the Department of Finance, but has been administered by the NRH.

All members of the previous DDMBA resigned in late 2021 due to concerns about the restrictive criteria of the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers Scheme (DDS) and the need for reform. The Departments of Finance and Health have since been attempting to recruit and install
the required membership of five doctors to resume the DDMBA. As of April, there were 912 appeals outstanding.

The DDS provides relief from vehicle registration tax and VAT on an adapted car, as well as an exemption from motor tax and an annual fuel grant.

The scheme is open to people with a severe and permanent disability as a driver or passenger and to certain charitable organisations. Applicants must hold a primary medical certificate (PMC) issued by a HSE senior area medical officer or a board medical certificate issued by the DDMBA. When the DDMBA was operational, it upheld the HSE medical officer’s decision in about 98 per cent of cases.

A Department of Finance spokesperson told this newspaper: “Engagement began in December 2021 with the NRH to ascertain the conditions for their continued hosting of the new DDMBA. In February 2023, the NRH (that has hosted the DDMBA since 2000) indicated their intention to withdraw their services with immediate effect. Finance and Health officials are actively seeking to implement new arrangements, including engaging with the NRH. As there are a range of requirements and complex issues involved this may take some time.”

The spokesperson said requests for appeal hearings can still be sent to the DDMBA secretary based in the NRH.

In February, a final report from the National Disability Inclusion Strategy (NDIS) transport working group (TWG) endorsed a proposal from the Department of Finance that the DDS should be replaced with a needs-based, grant-aided vehicular adaptation scheme.

The NDIS TWG report noted the outdated approach of the DDS, which needed be addressed as a matter of priority. It found the scheme did not meet the needs of a significant group of people with a disability and mobility impairments. The scheme required individuals to ‘prove’ they were sufficiently ‘disabled’ and any expansion of eligibility criteria would still mean some individuals would not meet the criteria.

“While the NDIS TWG endorses the proposal to develop a new needs-based, grant-aided vehicular adaptation scheme to replace the DDS, the final report does not set out next steps. It will be a matter for Government as to how to take this matter forward,” stated the Department of Finance spokesperson.

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