Soaring health claims: Better ways to spend money

EVEN in a country that has endured more than enough reports on damming failure and wilful neglect in our care and health systems last week’s Hiqa relevations about deaths among newborn babies in Portlaoise were particularly distressing and infuriating.

No-one expects an infallible health service — after all to err is human — but the documented failure — or reluctance — to learn from mistakes, to re-engineer service provision and patient protection, highlighted last week, shows and unacceptable indifference, very poor management and leadership.

Is it possible that very same culture is at the root of the warning given to health service bosses by Health Minister Leo Varadkar that they must get to grips with the record multi-million and growing High Court compensation cases faced by the HSE?

Close to 1,000 claims against the HSE reached the High Court last year — almost double the number in 2010.

Almost €166m was paid in damages between 2010 and 2014 and millions more were paid in legal costs.

The claims graph continues to rise despite open-disclosure initiatives launched by the HSE and the State Claims Agency two years ago designed to resolve complaints and encourage the settlement of grievances without involving the courts.

In the context of a €13bn- a-year plus health service, these figures may seem moderate but the money should be spent in far more productive ways



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