Medical negligence and hospital accident payouts cost State €2.4bn since 2003

Medical negligence and hospital accident payouts cost State €2.4bn since 2003

The South/South West region, which includes CUH, University Hospital Waterford, University Hospital Kerry and South Tipperary General Hospital, paid out the most of any of the hospital groups.

Medical negligence and hospital accident payouts have cost the State more than €2.4bn since 2003.

Over the past two decades, claims have cost an average of €120m each year, with taxpayers ultimately footing the bill. The claims, managed by the State Claims Agency, have involved patients, service users, employees, and members of the public across acute hospitals.

Of the 6,289 claims paid out over this period, 715 related to cases where a person had died. Stephen Donnelly, the health minister, said: 

A significant proportion of claims relating to mortality are in respect of the resultant psychological injuries reported by family members or dependents of the deceased. 

South/South West region paid out the most

• The South/South West region — which includes Cork University Hospital, University Hospital Waterford, University Hospital Kerry, and South Tipperary General Hospital — paid out the most of any of the hospital groups. Between 2003 and the end of last month, a total of 1,343 settled claims relating to acute hospitals in this group amounted to over €638m.

• UL Hospitals Group — which is made up of six sites including University Hospital Limerick, Ennis Hospital, and Nenagh Hospital — settled 549 cases at a cost of €178m.

• Children’s Hospital Ireland had the lowest number of claims at just 111, with the overall cost of these cases amounting to €126m.

The remaining hospital groups paid out between €318m and €426m each between 2003 and the end of last month.

Sums paid out and number of claims is 'astounding'

Sinn Féin health spokesman David Cullinane has called on Mr Donnelly to urgently examine the amount of money being spent on claims and associated costs.

“You will always have, at times, negligence of the State, but the sheer amount of money here and the number of claims is astounding,” he said. “Over €2bn is a huge amount of money when you consider what could be done with even a fraction of that to improve healthcare services.”

Mr Cullinane raised the example of Cappagh Hospital, which is seeking €25m worth of extra investment. 

The Waterford TD said this funding would “dramatically increase” the number of surgical procedures for more complex orthopaedic needs the hospital could carry out. This in turn would significantly reduce waiting times for those with scoliosis and spina bifida.

'Thorough review is needed'

"The minister needs to carry out a thorough review of exactly what type of claims are being made, what lessons are being learned, and to look at the volume of claims, the type of claims, and then look at what processes can be put in place to prevent, inasmuch as we can, these types of incidents," he said. 

Mr Cullinane, who had asked the minister to provide a breakdown of the amount and value of payments made by each acute hospital for preventable accidents, said: 

There seems to be a repeated pattern every year. Yes mistakes can be made, but you have to learn from mistakes and put measures in place.

“When you look at the volume of complaints that are there as well, it doesn’t strike me that we are learning lessons.”

He also hit out at a “lack of transparency” both in the HSE and the Department of Health, and said until there was a cultural shift in both organisations, scandals would continue to arise and the State would be forced to pay out.

The €2.4bn in payouts does not include compensation payments related to claims from inquests.

The figure also does not include cases still to be settled by the State Claims Agency. However, the total does include fees for damages (special and general) as well as legal and expert costs. 

While the payments have all been made since 2003, some of the claims relate to incidents which go back as far as 1945.

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