Monthly Archives: September 2015

Bereaved Parents Criticise HSE Apology

 

The couple, whose little girl died very soon after her birth, have declined to accept an apology delivered by the Health Service Executive, citing it as “six years too late”.

On the 11th February 2009, Caoimhe Mulcair was born at Limerick’s Midland Regional Hospital. Her parents, Joan and John, had been trying to have a child for many years and were elated at the birth. However, very shortly after the delivery, it was noticed that Caoimhe’s cry was abnormal for a newborn. The baby was then transferred to the hospital’s special care unit, but died just thirty-nine minutes after her birth in her mother’s arms.

After seeking legal counsel, Joan and John made a claim for medical negligence compensation against the Health Service Executives (HSE) and the Midland General Hospital. In the claim, they allege that the hospital’s failure to act after Caoimhe’s foetal heart rate was noted as slow, which resulted in her being starved of oxygen in utero. However, the HSE disputed these allegations until September 2014, at which time the Mulcairs were offered an undisclosed settlement of compensation.

Last week, a court in Limerick ruled that Caoimhe had died because of medical misadventure. This was based on evidence that a slow foetal heart lead to the deprivation of oxygen to her brain. During the hearing, Collette Cowan, Chief Executive of the Midland Regional Hospital, read an apology to Joan and John for their daughter’s death.

Yet this apology was rejected by the couple, who told reporters that it was delivered “six years too late”. John told reporters, once the inquest had finished, that whilst the couple were fighting for a compensation settlement, the HSE issued no apology and that it was shameful that the HSE “an ordinary decent family through the pain and torment we had to endure for over six years”.

Later, a spokesperson for the HSE clarified that they did not handle compensation disputes, but the State Claims Agency did. However, a columnist for the Irish Times was not impressed by this “passing of the buck”, writing that “A common interest links the HSE and the claims agency and there has been a persistent pattern of denial, prevarication and years of unnecessary delay in dealing with medical claims. The public and aggrieved patients deserve better. So do the vast majority of medical professionals

Soar in Compensation Awarded by High Court

A thirty-four percent rise in the number of compensation settlements awarded by the High Court has been observed in 2014, with some claiming that this is because of over-generous judges.

Emer Lang, an analyst at Davy Stockbrokers, first noticed this increase in compensation awarded by the High Court when she collected information from the Courts Service Annual Report. The data showed that, in total, €155 million in compensation was given out, spread over five hundred and nine personal injury claims, in 2014.

This worked out to be an average of €304,000 per claim, and when compared with the average value of €227,000 in 2013, it showed that there was a 34% increase between the two years. The average value for assessments that were conducted by the Injuries Board did not increase over the same period, remaining at roughly €22,600.

Consultants from the motor insurance industry have reported their shock at the new figures. Conor Faughnan, at AA Ireland, commented that the judges dealing with these claims needed to be trained to help them gain an understanding that the compensation that they award is ultimately paid for the country’s two million drivers.

However, others blamed recent changes to the Courts and Civil Law Act in 2013, which meant that any case that was expected to settle for over €60,000 had to be heard in the High Court. Before this, the limit was €38,092. The Motor Insurance Advisory Board’s Founding Chairperson, Dorothea Dowling, claims that the plaintiffs are preferably using the High Court System, over the Injuries Board, in the hope of receiving more money.

“The Department of Justice was forewarned well in advance,” Ms Dowling told the Independent Newspaper. “This is what happens when you increase the limits of the lower courts – it sends out the message that €38,000 is small money.”

However, Mr Justice Bernard Barton does not agree – last July, he criticised the government for not updating injury compensation values in the Book of Quantum (upon which the Injuries Board bases its assessments) since 2004.

Judge Barton commented in McGarry vs McGarry that “it is unquestionably in the interests of the proper administration of justice that the Book be reviewed and be kept updated to properly reflect [High Court compensation awards]”.