Maternity-related medical negligence cases represent over 50% of the total payouts made by the State according to figures detailed on Friday at a conference on patient safety organised by the State Claims Agency (SCA).
This is in spite of the fact that maternity services account for just 3% of the Health Service Executive (HSE) budget. In tandem with this, the most recent figures available show that compensation settlements and awards for maternity negligence have also risen by about 80%.
Dr Peter McKenna, Clinical Director of the HSE’s National Women and Infant Health Programme, referred to preventable brain damage in normally formed infants is the “single biggest risk” in the HSE stating that these are “the most egregious insult the heath service can cause to a service user”.
Dr McKenna claimed that, by investing a small percentage (5%) of the monies that are paid out in compensation the HSE could reduce these preventable incidents by up to 50%. This claim is particularly significant as, in 2014, the State made compensation payments totalling €58m in compensation for maternity negligence cases. Additionally , Dr McKenna revealed that this represented 54% of the totalical negligence payouts by the State in 2014.
“This is massive for a part of the health service that accounts for 3 per cent of total expenditure,” he said, pointing out that just €500 million of the HSE’s €15 billion budget goes on maternity services.
Dr McKenna told the conference: “In the past, six, seven, eight million might have been a big settlement. Now the figure is running at €15 million. The number of cases hasn’t changed but the payout amount has. I don’t think that one cent of what the parents get will compensate them for having a child that does not live up to their expectations,” Dr McKenna said. “If you think I am complaining about the size of the payouts, I’m not.”