Category: Hospital Medical Negligence

Despite being under-resourced and under-staffed, the Health Service Executive do a generally commendable job of looking after the nation´s health. However, there are times when hospital medical negligence leads to avoidable injuries being sustained which have life-long consequences to the injured party. Claims for hospital medical negligence are often complicated when more than one person could have been responsible for a loss, injury or the deterioration of an existing condition and therefore, if you would like to find out more about compensation for hospital medical negligence, you are invited to call our freephone Solicitors Advisory Panel and discuss the circumstances of the hospital medical negligence directly with an experienced Irish solicitor.

Almost €250m paid in Medical Negligence Claims during 2017

The State Claims Agency (SCA)  has revealed that a record figure of €248.88m was paid in medical negligence claims during 2017.

This figure is an increase of 20.6% on the amount paid out during 2016, €206.4m in total.

In the report released by the State Claims Agency, figures indicate that that the SCA has paid out €1.123bn since 2010 in relation to medical negligence compensation claims. The figures produced show that between clinical, and €32.87m in general claims awarded against the general health sector, the SCA has paid out €1.235bn in total in the last seven years.

These details were revealed to Fianna Fail Finance Spokesman Michael McGrath by the Minister for Finance Fine Gael TD Paschal Donohoe following a written request for the specific details of the figures paid out by the State in compensation claims.

There were also significant increases in compensation claims against other sectors since 2010 including:

  • €23.6m in personal injury claims awarded against the Defence Forces.
  • €19m out by the Irish Prison Service
  • €11m paid out the Child and Family Agency TUSLA since it was established in 2013
  • €111m paid out by state authorities since 2010.

The main finding of the report was that, by far, that largest portion of compensation pay outs by the SCA in 2017 was taken up by the public medical sector.

Another significant point to note from compensation claims made against the state in 2017 were as follows:

  • €1.38m was last year paid out by the SCA on behalf of Comprehensive and Community Schools with €296,673 paid out by the Dept of Health.
  • €261,569 was paid out by the Deptartment of Justice while €574,632 was paid out on behalf of Day Schools.
  • €196,090 was paid out by Childrens’ Detention Schools.

Plaintiff to Pay Costs of a Court Hearing despite Successful Claim

A plaintiff has been ordered to pay a proportion of the costs of a court hearing despite making a successful claim for medical negligence against the HSE.

Madeline Wright won her claim for medical negligence against the Health Service Executive (HSE) in May, after it was determined that there had been an avoidable and unacceptable delay in the treatment she received following a motorcycle accident in 2005.

However, further claims made against the Misericordiae and Sligo General Hospitals, and her orthopaedic surgeon – Mr Keith Synott – were found to be unsubstantiated, and considered by Ms Justice Mary Irvine to have taken up almost 80% of the courts time.

In a departure from the legal principal of “costs follow the event” the judge said although “[Madeline] must be deemed to be the overall winner of proceedings in which the defendants denied any liability” the claims of medical negligence were proven in only one leg of the court action and Madeline should be responsible for some of the costs of a court hearing.

Ms Justice Mary Irvine explained her position thus: “Just because a plaintiff has one good point they should not, to my mind, be permitted to litigate a myriad of others and have the court make an order requiring the successful defendant on such issues to pay for that luxury. There must be some sanction in terms of costs should this occur”.

The judge acknowledged that ordering Madeline to pay 80% costs of a court hearing was too harsh due to the complexity of the claim and – as there was no precedent in this type of litigation – that a reduction of 35% should act as a deterrent to any future plaintiff who may attempt to attach unsubstantiated allegations to a genuine claim.

Hospital Infections Likely due to Poor Hygiene Claims HIQA

A series of reports produced by the Health Information Quality Authority (HIQA) have revealed that there is a high risk of hospital infections in Ireland due to poor hygiene in hospitals.

Five hospitals were inspected during the summer by HIQA – an independent authority which checks on the quality and safety of the Irish Health Service – and their reports show, among other issues, a general lack of hand hygiene which is likely to result in patients, visitors and staff contracting hospital infections.

The worst of the five hospitals was Waterford Regional Hospital; where inspectors observed medical and nursing staff using only five in twenty-three hand hygiene opportunities during their unannounced inspection and found that soap dispensers provided for staff in the Accident & Emergency Department were either empty or blocked by soap residue.

Mould was also found to be developing in toilets and shower units used by patients and – on one occasion – a patient suspected of having a transmittable infection was treated in a general bay of the Accident & Emergency Department – despite isolation units being available.

Hand hygiene issues which were likely to result in hospital infections were also identified during unannounced inspections at St Michael´s Hospital in Dun Laoghaire, Portiuncila Hospital in Galway, Louth County Hospital in Dundalk and Our Lady´s Hospital in Navan – where the walls of the patients´ toilets were described as “heavily stained”.

Rob Landers – Clinical Director at Waterford Regional Hospital – said that the hospital was “extremely disappointed” with the findings published in the report, but reassured patients that it was safe to attend the hospital.

He said that the Accident and Emergency Department had been extremely busy on the day of the inspection and – although he admitted that this was no excuse for potentially transmitting hospital infections – announced that compulsory hand hygiene training would be introduced for all workers at the hospital in the future.

Waterford Regional Hospital has been given six weeks from the date of the report by HIQA to develop a quality improvement plan and post it on the hospital website.

Misdiagnosis and Prescription Errors Responsible in Most Claims for Negligence against GPs

Misdiagnosis and prescription errors have been identified as being the most common reasons for claims for negligence against GPs according to a report commissioned by the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland.

The report – “The Epidemiology of Malpractice Claims in Primary Care: A Systematic Review” – was prepared by the Centre for Primary Care Research in Dublin with the aim of identifying which areas of primary care needed specific attention when planning future educational strategies and developing risk management systems for primary healthcare practitioners.

The key findings of the report were published in the British Medical Journal and included:-

  • The misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis of cancer was the most common individual reasons for making claims for negligence against GPs.
  • The most frequently misdiagnosed cancers were breast cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer and cancer of the female genital tract.
  • The second most common grounds for successful negligence claims against GPs were prescription and medication errors.
  • The misdiagnosis of heart attacks also accounted for a significant number of claims for negligence against GPs and primary healthcare practitioners.
  • The most frequently misdiagnosed condition for children was appendicitis, but the incorrect diagnosis of meningitis accounted for 30% of compensation paid.
  • The annual prevalence of claims for negligence against GPs for missed diagnosis or delayed diagnosis appears to be on the increase

Lead researcher for the report – Dr Emma Wallace – admitted that primary healthcare practitioners are referring patients to consultants more frequently, as the fear of litigation inhibits their willingness to make diagnoses. This situation is leading to patients´ conditions deteriorating unnecessarily and creating more pressure on an under-resourced health service.

Dr Wallace – who is herself a GP – acknowledged that claims for negligence against GPs were “not a perfect substitute for adverse events”, but said that when medical negligence claims are made against GPs, the medical practitioners involved often experience increased levels of stress – reducing the effectiveness of service they are able to offer, and placing more patients at risk of a delayed diagnosis or medication error.

She added “this systematic review is timely considering the increased interest in focusing on primary care as a way of improving patient care and safety” and she hoped that the report would provide an insight into the types of adverse effects in clinical practice and their causes, which would subsequently increase the standard of primary care and reduce the number claims for negligence against GPs in Ireland.

Family Claim Compensation for Lack of Nursing Care after Hospital Death

The family of a 26 year-old woman who drowned in a bath two days after she was admitted to hospital are to make a claim for compensation for a lack of nursing care.

Amy Hauserman had voluntarily entered the psychiatric ward of Frankston Hospital in Melbourne in March 2008 after doctors had feared she was relapsing into a schizophrenic condition from which she had previously suffered with anorexia.

Two days after her admission, Amy was discovered face-down in a bath – having either lapsed into unconsciousness during the bath or having slipped and fallen while trying to get out of it according to Coroner Peter White.

At the inquest into Amy´s death, the Coroner highlighted the fact that the bath had been taken without supervision and, had a nurse been present, there would have been the opportunity to rescue her irrespective of the nature of the accident which led to her drowning.

The Coroner´s report also revealed that no risk evaluation had been conducted before Amy was allowed to take the bath without supervision and her consultant had not been consulted. It was also noted that one of the nurses who worked on the ward at the time gave evidence that she was unaware there was a protocol for patients taking baths.

Following the release of the Coroner´s Report, Frankston Hospital announced it was no longer offer baths to patients in its high dependency psychiatric ward – a move which the Coroner said was an “appropriate response to this tragic episode”.

However, Amy´s father said “these findings confirm ours and the Coroner’s belief that if the hospital had looked after Amy better and showed her the due and proper care she deserved, she would still be with us now.”

He confirmed that the family had already made a compensation claim for the lack of nursing care and that a court date had been arranged in May 2014 for the claim against the Mornington Peninsula Health Service to be heard.

Claim for Loss due to Lack of Hospital Treatment Resolved Out of Court

A family have resolved their claim for loss due to lack of hospital treatment out of court following the death of 69-year-old Eileen Maloney at Mayo General Hospital.

The family made their claim following an investigation into the circumstances of Eileen´s death in February 2009. Eileen had been admitted to the Mayo General Hospital on Sunday 1st February, complaining of an acute abdominal pain, and although an X-ray revealed a small obstruction in her bowel, no review of the x-ray was conducted to check for a perforated bowel.

Eileen – who was suffering from cancer at the time – underwent a CT scan on the following Friday (6th February) which revealed a tumour had developed in her large intestine; but again a perforated bowel was not considered to be the cause of her ongoing pain – allegedly due to a lack of experienced doctors being available – and surgery was not scheduled until the next week (12th February).

Eileen died five days after her operation, and the family claim they were informed that Eileen would have survived the surgery and lived for a further six months had her condition been diagnosed and acted upon correctly. With this information, the family made a claim for loss due to lack of hospital treatment against the Mayo General Hospital and the Health Service Executive (HSE).

The claim for loss due to lack of hospital treatment was initially denied by the HSE but, at the High Court in Dublin, Mr Justice Michael Peart heard that an out-of-court settlement had been agreed without admission of liability that would see the family receive €50,000 in compensation for their loss. After hearing the circumstances of Eileen´s death, the judge approved the settlement – extending his sympathies to the family and saying that this was a “very, very tragic case”.

Interim Settlement of Cerebral Palsy Birth Injury Compensation Approved in Court

An interim settlement of cerebral palsy birth injury compensation relating to a thirteen-year-old boy who was born with irreversible brain damage has been approved in the High Court in Dublin.

The claim for cerebral palsy birth injury compensation was made on behalf of Ryan Brennan from Cahir, County Tipperary, by the boy´s parents following allegedly avoidable complications before and during Ryan´s birth in January 2000 at the St Joseph´s Hospital in Clonmel.

Several hours prior to his delivery, a foetal trace had identified abnormalities in Ryan´s heart rate and, after he was born, he had to be resuscitated and suffered seizures throughout the day. As a result of his delayed birth, Ryan now suffers from irreversible brain damage and cerebral palsy.

It was alleged by Ryan´s parents – Lorraine and Raymond Brennan – that Ryan´s injuries could have been avoided if the consultant obstetrician – Dr Brendan Powell – and staff at St Joseph´s Hospital had acted with greater care, and a cerebral palsy claim for birth injury compensation was made against Dr Powell and the HSE.

Both parties denied the allegations of a failure to act, negligence, a breach of duty by Dr Powell and a breach of contract by the hospital which lead to the brain damage suffered by Ryan but, at the High Court in Dublin, Ms Justice Mary Irvine heard that an interim settlement of cerebral palsy birth injury compensation had been agreed upon without admission of liability.

The €1.7 million temporary payment is for two years to allow for the introduction of a structured payment system and a review of Ryan´s future requirements. Ms Justine Mary Irvine described the interim settlement as ‘in the upper parameters of these types of cases’ as she approved it.

Delayed Hospital Compensation Action Approved in Court

A settlement of delayed hospital compensation action has been approved at the High Court in the case of Brid Courtney – two years after the brain damaged child was awarded an interim payment.

Brid, who is now nine years old and comes from Ardfert in County Kerry, was born in Tralee General Hospital in February 2003 suffering from brain damage after medical staff at the hospital allegedly failed to act on a dramatic change in the foetal heart rate pattern.

As a result of the decrease in heart beat, Brid suffered perinatal asphyxia in the womb and because of the oxygen starvation is now confined to a wheelchair from which she has to be lifted bodily. She is also unable to speak and has to depend on the use of her eyes and facial expressions to communicate with her family.

Following a claim for injury due to delayed hospital action filed through her mother – Deidre – the Health Service Executive agreed to settle the claim without admission of liability and, in November 2010, Mr Justice John Quirke approved an interim payment of 2 million Euros and adjourned the case for two years to allow for the introduction of periodic payments.

However, a system for periodic compensation payments for catastrophic injuries has still not been introduced by the government and – two years after the initial payment of compensation for delayed hospital action was approved – the case returned before the court for the approval of a final settlement.

At the High Court, Ms Justice Mary Irvine heard testimony from experts that a further 9 million Euros in compensation for delayed hospital action would be required to provide adequate care for Brid through the remainder of her expected life and, as both Brid´s mother and the Health Service Executive agreed with the expert´s assessment, Ms Justice Mary Irvine approved the settlement.

Negligent Brain Surgery Compensation for Former Medical Worker

A former paramedic, who was left badley disabled after doctors removed the wrong part of his brain, has accepted a seven figure settlement of compensation for negligent brain surgery from the NHS Trust responsible for the error.

John Tunney (63) from Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, had the operation in April 2008 after an MRI scan had revealed abnormalities around his pituitary gland. However, instead of taking out the tumour, surgeons took away healthy tissue during the operation which lead to a hemorrhaging in John’s brain .

The mistake left John partly blind and needing 24 hour care. He subsequently learned that the operation had not even been necessary as doctors had not checked out the results of a blood test which would have revealed that John was suffering from prolactinoma – a benign and common pituitary tumour which can be treated with tablets.

After taking legal guidance, John – who was employed by the West Midlands Ambulance Service as a paramedic for 23 years – filed a claim for negligent brain surgery compensation against the University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust and, after an investigation, the NHS Trust admitted liability for the dual error.

John´s solicitors began negotiations with University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust over how much compensation for negligent brain surgery he (John) should be awarded and, although details of the final settlement have not been released, a settlement in excess of one million pounds has been agreed.