HSE takes five years to admit liability

A High Court judge yesterday said it was “highly regrettable” it took the HSE five years to admit liability in the case of a little boy who was catastrophically injured at his birth at Waterford Regional Hospital.

Approving an €8.5m settlement in the case of Dylan Gaffney Hayes, Ms Justice Mary Irvine said she rarely made a comment on the conduct of a defendant, but this was the second case this week where a defendant held off admitting responsibility for years for injuries caused to a baby at birth.

“Putting it at its mildest form, I think it is highly regrettable the HSE for whatever reason was not in a position to take responsibility until June 2012, five years after the birth,” she said.

The judge made her comments as she approved — after an 11-day hearing to assess damages — the €8.5m settlement for Dylan Gaffney Hayes, Kilcohan Park, Waterford, who suffered serious injuries at the time of his birth at Waterford Regional Hospital in July 2007.

The HSE admitted liab-ility in the case last year and it was before the High Court for assessment of damages only.

Dylan has cerebral palsy, has to use a wheelchair, and has trouble with short-term memory.

Ms Justice Irvine also praised Dylan’s parents, and said anybody in court when Dylan’s mother, Jean Gaffney, gave her evidence could not be but deeply moved by her account. What the couple had done for their son to bring out the very best in him was nothing short of inspiring, the judge said.

Ms Gaffney, who had worked in Waterford Crystal, and her husband gave up their jobs and are full-time carers for their son. Ms Justice Irvine said she hoped the settlement would bring some normality into the family’s life.

Before Dylan’s birth, Ms Gaffney had requested a caesarean section as her first child, Shauna, was born by emergency section for foetal distress after 51 hours of labour, while her second pregnancy ended in miscarriage after 12 weeks of gestation.

In her evidence to the court, Ms Gaffeny told how she had been anxious to have a caesarean and was told there was no reason because she was not small in stature. She was also told it would be “another feather in my cap if I gave birth naturally”.

In the action, it was claimed that Ms Gaffney went to Waterford Regional Hospital on July 20, 2007, as she thought her membranes had ruptured, and was given an antenatal appointment for July 25. It was claimed the weight estimation for Dylan appeared to have been ignored and the mode of delivery should have been reconsidered.

Ms Gaffney went into spontaneous labour on July 22 and was readmitted to hospital in the early hours, when oxytocin was administered. It was claimed that advice to commence pushing at 2pm was entirely unacceptable and inappropriate and a caesarean should have been performed.

When Dylan was born at 2.39pm after an emergency caesarean, he was floppy, it was claimed. It was also alleged there was no paediatrician present at delivery and this led to a further delay in Dylan receiving adequate resuscitation.

Ms Gaffney had significant injuries herself but the court heard that legal case had been resolved earlier.


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