Negligence cases cost HSE €81m last year

Negligence claims cost the HSE a massive €81m in taxpayers’ money last year — with €32m going on legal fees for those defending the state organisation.

Figures obtained by Fine Gael Cork South Central TD and Oireachtas health committee chair Jerry Buttimer show the massive costs were accrued despite attempts to curb the financial expense in recent years.

According to the State Claims Agency statistics, last year’s €81m cost was up marginally on the €79m figure in 2010, and almost double the 2009 cost of €47.5m.

Of the 2011 cost, 40% went on legal fees in expensive court cases involving families.

Among the high-profile cases the costs relate to is that of Teresa O’Brien, whose husband Paul, son and stepson shared €334,000 in compensation in the High Court.

Ms O’Brien, of The Green, Clara, Co Offaly, died of a heart attack on Sept 27, 2004, four days after being discharged from the Midland Regional Hospital in Tullamore.

The consultant asked for an angiogram to be carried out and that Ms O’Brien be kept in hospital

A senior house officer carried out stress tests and these were given to a doctor, but he did not link this with the ‘do not discharge’ request and misread the documents.

In 2009, Evan Doyle, through his mother Janice, received €4.5m via the High Court due to complications arising from his birth in Sligo General Hospital in Oct 1995.

Evan has cerebral palsy, has spastic quadriplegia and cannot do anything for himself. It was alleged that a Caesarean operation would have prevented the injuries, while a drug to induce the birth was given at twice the recommended dose.

The costs were revealed as it emerged more than 1,000 adverse incidents, from slips and falls to blood transfusion and drug mistakes, took place at Munster’s largest hospital last year.

Figures revealed by trade newspaper the Medical Independent show that of the 1,217 incidents at Cork University Hospital last year, 656 involved slips, trips and falls.

A further 225 were medication incidents, 11 were blood transfusions, 30 were radiation incidents, 71 equipment and device incidents, and 29 involved infection control problems.

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