NEARLY €60 million in compensation for hospital-related claims has been paid out so far this year, an increase of 25% on the cost of claims settled last year.
The State Claims Agency paid out €48m in settled claims last year.
Health Minister, Mary Harney, who launched a package of patient safety measures in Dublin yesterday, said a heavy price was being paid for not focusing on a patient-safety agenda.
“We have to make sure that those that represent the healthcare profession don’t confuse their representational role with the patient safety agenda,” she stressed.
The minister said new national standards for patient safety would form the basis of a hospital licensing system, due to be underpinned by legislation in 2012.
Ms Harney warned the ultimate penalty for breaching the standards would be the closure of a hospital.
The Health Information and Quality Authority has published draft standards on its website and is inviting submissions from the public.
Other initiatives included a Patient Safety First declaration of commitment from health authorities and professional bodies and a national framework to ensure consistency of treatment.
Patient advocate and a member of the Commission on Patient Safety and Quality Assurance, Margaret Murphy, said she was delighted that patient safety issues were being pulled together. Ms Murphy’s 21-year-old son, Kevin, died in 1999 after a series of misdiagnoses, lost opportunities and inappropriate care.
Kevin was suffering from hypercalcemia – a treatable condition in the early stages. He died in Cork University Hospital but had been treated in the Mercy Hospital where the errors occurred.
“Vitally important” blood test results were written on a post-it note and attached to his referral letter. The consultant who saw him in the Mercy Hospital said he had not even seen this note until after Mr Murphy had died.
“There are two reasons I am a patient advocate – every point of contact I had with the healthcare system failed my son and the injury was compounded by damage limitation efforts. I like to feel that I have come from that terrible place and am now part of something that will make things better and prevent a recurrence of what happened to me.”
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