Settlement and compensation payouts by the State to victims of “negligence, incompetence, and neglect” in Irish hospitals have totalled almost €500m since 2011, the Irish Examiner can reveal.
In the past five years, the rate of claims and amounts paid out to victims in cases where the State was negligent, soared from €58m in 2011 in 567 cases, to nearly €100m last year, in 1,307 cases.
One of the most high- profile cases recently settled was for €6.3m, involving Grace, a woman with severe physical and intellectual disabilities who had been abused for two decades at a state-funded foster home.
Documents in which the figures are contained state that the payouts include all HSE-related matters, but exclude claims relating to Tusla, the State’s child protection agency.
As such, the final cost to the taxpayer could be substantially higher.
The alarming cost in dealing with the cost of mistakes in the care of patients has been criticised by Oireachtas finance committee chairman John McGuinness, who said it is “completely inexcusable that such failure is allowed to continue”.
“This is the shocking cost of HSE failure revealed for the first time in such detail,” he told the Irish Examiner.
“Systemic incompetence, neglect and a failure of management within the HSE. To see taxpayers having to deal with payouts of near €100m a year, as it was last year, is disgraceful.”
According to the figures from the office of Health Minister Simon Harris, 5,753 cases have been settled or concluded from the period 2011-2016 at a total cost of €478m. The documents show the stated figures may not be the final costs to be borne by the State.
“There may still be some associated payments and reimbursements outstanding on finalised claims,” notes in the document explained.
The management of claims against the HSE and the Department of Health is delegated under the National Treasury Management Agency Act to the State Claims Agency (SCA) which has a statutory mandate to investigate and manage cases to completion.
“In 2015, 97% of clinical negligence cases which were handled by the SCA were settled without the necessity for a contested court hearing,” Mr Harris said in the documents, in which the figures are contained.
According to the documents, “a claim in this context refers to a notification of intention to seek compensation for personal injury and/or property damage where it is alleged that the State was negligent”.
“A finalised claim refers to when a claim and all other matters associated with it have been agreed, including legal costs and compensation,” the documents add.
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