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Almost a billion Euro paid out in medical negligence cases since 2014, new figures show

Payouts have totalled €108 million for the first five months of 2019.

The minister has said mandatory open disclosure policy for health workers will be enshrined in law by the end of the year.
The minister has said mandatory open disclosure policy for health workers will be enshrined in law by the end of the year.
Image: Shutterstock/MAD.vertise

THE HSE HAS paid out over €832 million on medical negligence cases since 2014, newly released figures show.

Payouts have totalled €108 million for the first five months of 2019.

In the past five years payouts have increased by 365%, jumping from €59 million in 2014 to €215 million in 2018. 

Fianna Fáil TD for Galway East, Anne Rabbitte, who obtained the figures, said they raise concerns about what the HSE is doing to limit such negligence in the first place, particularly at a time when health spending is spiralling.

“I don’t think the recipients of these payouts are being acquisitive, they undoubtedly deserve this money. Negligent actions can sometimes leave people dealing with issues for years to come and they deserve to be compensated,” she said. 

However, she added: 

It seems inevitable that with a health system crippled by overcrowding and staff shortages, such cases of negligence will continue. With nurses and doctors under increasing pressures day-to-day, such working conditions are ripe for accidents. The government needs to address this and ensure that staff aren’t being left in positions that leave them more prone to mistakes being made.

The figures show that some hospital groups have paid out more than others, with the South/South West hospital Group paying out the most. 

This group includes hospitals such as:

Cork University Hospital and maternity hospital, University Hospital Waterford, University Hospital Kerry, Mercy University Hospital, South Tipperary General Hospital, South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital, Bantry General Hospital, Mallow General Hospital and Lourdes Orthopaedic Hospital in Kilcreene.

These hospitals have paid out more than €200 million since 2014.

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Last year, Clinical director of the HSE’s national women and infant health programme, Dr Peter McKenna said preventable brain damage in normally formed infants is the “single biggest risk” in the health service.

He said negligence in maternity cases makes up more than half of the payouts made by the State, adding that the onus is on the health service to investigate as early as possible how these injuries are caused during childbirth.

Earlier this year, Health Minister Simon Harris said all options must be explored in seeking an alternative mechanism for resolving clinical negligence claims, one which is more person-centered, but fair to all parties.

The minister has also indicated that a mandatory open disclosure policy for health workers will be enshrined in law by the end of the year. Open disclosure ensures staff must communicate with patients and their families when things go wrong with their care.

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