State Claims Agency Conference Hears Medical Negligence Represents 50% of Total State Payouts

Child-birth related medical negligence cases make up over half of the overall compensation awards issued by the State according to numbers released on Friday at a State Claims Agency (SCA) conference on patient safety.

This is a significant figures when it is considered that maternity services represent only 3% of the Health Service Executive (HSE) annual budget. The release also pointed to the fact that maternity related compensation settlements have also gone up by roughly 80%.

Speaking at the conference, Clinical Director of the HSE’s National Women and Infant Health Programme Dr Peter McKenna said that preventable brain damage in normally formed infants is the “single biggest risk” in the HSE nd referred to occurences of this as “the most egregious insult the heath service can cause to a service user”.

He (Dr McKenna) claimed that, by spending a relatively small percentage (5%) of the funds that are paid out in compensation settlements,  the HSE could cut these preventable incidents by half. This argument is further highlighted by the fact that  in 2014 the State made compensation payments of €58m in childbirth related negligence cases. Dr McKenna also said that this 2014 amount represents 54% of the totalical negligence compensation payouts by the State in that year.

He said, referring to the fact that only €500 million of the HSE’s €15 billion budget goes on maternity services: “This is massive for a part of the health service that accounts for 3 per cent of total expenditure.

“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.”

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Landlord who Refused Rent Allowance Payment from Family Ordered to Pay €14,000

Following denying a family the opportunity pay a percentage of their rent through rent allowance for a 15-month period, a landlord has been ordered to pay them €14,000 in compensation.

Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) adjudication officer Ewa Sobanska issued a ruling stating that the landlord must pay €7,000 to each parent as she found the discrimination “to be at the more serious end of the scale”. She  added that she was awarding the compensation after taking into account the financial suffering, stress, inconvenience and financial and emotional pressures sustained by the married couple due to the landlord’s refusal to participate in the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme.

The married couple had initially asked the landlord to allow them pay rent allowance through HAP in May 2017. Hap is a scheme where landlords must register to allow their tenants participate. However, the couple have alleged that in March 2018 they received a letter from their landlord with the words “there is your HAP” written on the envelope. Upon opening it they discovered that it was an eviction letter.

The couple had agreed to a long-term rent deal of €950 monthly in December 2015 with the landlord.

The couple – who have four children aged 13, nine, six and two – were having difficulty is paying the rent and asked the landlord in May 2017 about availing of HAP and he replied: “We can talk but it’s most unlikely that I will be doing HAP.”

Following this, in January 2017, the couple sent on to the landlord correspondence from the agency Threshold advising that “a landlord must accept HAP and to refuse this is considered discrimination”.

After the ‘termination’ letter that the landlord sent in March 2017, he (the landlord) wrote to the couple to inform them that he did not refuse to facilitate the HAP assistance application but could not do so due to not having a Tax Clearance Certificate. He further stated that he had been making attempts to address this and the request for HAP assistance “has absolutely nothing to do with ending your tenancy”.

The landlord has been given 42 days in which to make the €14,000 compensation payment to the couple in question.

 

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Medical Council President Slams Requests for Repeat Cervical Scans

The President of the Medical Council said today that requiring patients to undergo repeat cervical smears as their samples are going out of date is unacceptable.

Dr Rita Doyle, President of the Medical Council, released an official statement in reaction to revelations that a number of women being re-tested due to the CervicalCheck scandal might have to go through the procedure again as their samples have bceom outdated.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) stated that in some instances smears may have to be retaken as the samples obtained have been held for longer that their six-week period of use before they expire. It (the HSE) also revealed that all attempts are underway to try and prevent samples expiring. They added that there has been a considerable surge in the numbers of smears that contracted laboratories have to process.

Dr Doyle, reacting to the news, urged that doctors who carry out the screening receive as much support as possible in tllow them timely laboratory analysis.

Dr Doyle said: “This is unacceptable to both patients and doctors. This could have the potential to have a further negative impact on the public’s confidence in screening services which would be very concerning. I am aware of reports of a recent development of a bottleneck in the analysis of cervical smears, whereby smears are not analysed in a timely fashion thus forcing the woman to re-attend and the doctor to repeat the smear.

Dr Doyle continued saying that the Medical Council is keen to see the results of the soon to be published Scally Report. Additionally the Medical Council has engaged in correspondence with the HSE to request information from any reports commissioned into the matter which are of relevance to the Medical Council’s remit.

She finished by saying: “If there are issues around professional performance or conduct relating to individual doctors they will be investigated and dealt with by the Medical Council in a fair manner according to our procedures and regulatory powers”.

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Whooping Cough Death Compensation Settlement of €100k for Mother Approved

A medical negligence compesnation settlement of €100,000 has been approved in the High Court for a mother whose two-month-old son died two weeks after she brought him to hospital with what it was claimed were the classic signs of whooping cough.

The family’s counsel Dr John O’Mahony told the High Court a diagnosis of bronchiolitis was made at Cork University Hospital on Romi Betak, from Cork, when the baby actually was suffering from the whooping cough.

Maria Mullins (33), of Presentation Road, Gurranabraher, Cork, had taken the whooping cough compensation acttion against the Health Service Executive in relation to the death of Romi in August 2012.

Dr O’Mahony said the child’s condition deteriorated and a blood sample taken coagulated and could not be tested. It was argued that Counsel said if a repeat blood test had been completed, the course of treatment for Romi would have been different, as a diagnosis could have been reached. The High Court was told that the child was kept at Cork University Hospital (CUH) and his condition worsened.

Dr O’Mahon said “His heart was racing, his breath was racing. The penny never dropped until it was too late”.

Romi has initially been taken to Cork University Hospital on August 3 2012, it was claimed, by his parents as he seemed to be suffering from the usual symptons of whooping cough infection. These symptoms included episodes of breath holding, coughing spasms and thick copious secretions.

Despite the baby’s condition worsening it is claimed that his health was not reviewed again by a doctor until August 5. By the time of this review his breathing was more laboured but the probability of whooping cough was allegedly not considered.

It was claimed there was a failure at that stage to carry out a chest X-ray and a failure to discuss the possibility of the provision of antibiotics.

On August 9 and 10 Romi was tube fed consistent with his deteriorating respiratory status.

On August 11, it was claimed, the possibility of whooping cough infection was noted for the first time following another deterioration in the child’s condition. However there was still no medical intervention. A chest X-ray showed significant areas of lung infection

The next day, August 12, the Romi suffered a respiratory arrest and was resuscitated, intubated and transferred to a Dublin hospital where he sadly passed away on August 14.

The High Court was told liability remained an issue in the case while Mr Justice Kevin Cross approved the whooping cough compensation settlement.

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Nine New Cases in CervicalCheck Scandal

There have been an additional nine legal cases filed against the National Screening Service by women alleging that their cervical cancer was misdiagnosed.

It has been confirmed by the State Claims Agency that the number of legal claims has risen to 28, with an additional two potential challenges and one closed case.

The figures on new cervical cancer cases communicated to the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee are for the period up to June 18th and do not include the case of Emma Mhic Mhathúna, who settled her case for €7.5 million.

Director of the State Claims Agency Ciarán Breen said that the objective of his agency is to enter into mediation with all claimants, adding that four terminally-ill women have entered such a process. He went on to say that the figures are continually evolving as new claims are being received every day and cases are being settled.

Minister for Health Simon Harris has brought the Heads of the Patient Safety Bill to Cabinet , which obliges medical professionals to report “serious reportable safety incidents” to those who have been harmed by them and to the Health Information and Quality Authority. Under the Minister for Health’s Bill, examples of the serious patient-safety incidents that must be reported will be set down in ministerial regulations. The list should include wrong-site surgery, patient death or serious disability associated with a medication or diagnostic mistakes, serious errors that emerge in screening programmes and maternal deaths.

A spokeswoman for the Minister said Mr Harris “strongly believes that creating a culture of mandatory open disclosure and learning from things that go wrong is the bedrock of making services safer. The general scheme of this Bill also provides for the mandatory external notification of those same events to the appropriate body. The Bill sets out the requirement for HIQA and the Mental Health Commission to develop standards on notification of patient-safety incidents.”

The spokeswoman confirmed the Minister had signed into effect new regulations that would make provision for legal, voluntary open disclosure of patient-safety issues. The regulations are the next step on from the Civil Liability (Amendment) Act which was passed by the Oireachtas and signed into law by the President in November 2017.

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HSE Agree €1m Compensation Settlement for Girl (13) Injured at Birth

In the High Court a 13-year-old girl, who was inflicted with a permanent disability due to a hip abnormality at birth not being diagnosed for six years, has settled her High Court Birth Injury Compensation action against the Health Service Executive for €1m.

The young girl, Nyomi Millea Melvey, can only walk for a period of three to five minutes before her hips seize up, her father Colin Melvey told the court. He told the court his daughter has done really well considering, but she has to work harder because of her disability. Mr Melvey added that Nyomi will also need three hip replacement operations throughout her life.

The condition, bilateral hip dysplasia was diagnosed, when the girl was six and, it was alleged, by then the options to address this were extremely limited.

Legal representative for Nyomi, Mr Liam Reidy, advised the Court that she was born with the condition where both hips were displaced, but that this was not diagnosed by physicians at the time. Nyomi, they said, had been examined on different times and there was an alleged failure to discover the abnormality that she displayed.

Through her mother Wendy Millea, Nyomi took the legal action against the HSE. Ms Millea had attended at Waterford Regional Hospital for antenatal care during her pregnancy. She gave birth to Nyomi was born on January 20, 2005, with bilateral hip dysplasia. It was at this time that the attending medical staff failed to spot the condition. The High Court was told that the condition was not diagnosed until February 2011.

It was also alleged there was a failure to recognise the underlying hip problem from simple observations despite the physical appearance of the child and concerns raised by her mother of Nyomi and an alleged failure to refer her for evaluation by an orthopaedic surgeon or a suitably qualified professional healthcare person.

The claims were denied.

Mr Justice Paul Butler approved the settlement of €1,000,000 in birth injury misdiagnosis compensation.

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€2,000 ‘Immediate Ex Gratia’ Payment to be made to Victims of CervicalCheck Scandal

A one-off payment of €2,000 from the State is to be made to the 209 women who suffered a delayed cancer diagnosis as a part of the CervicalCheck scandal.

An interim report into the controversy has issued a guideline that “an immediate ex gratia” payment be transferred to every woman impacted, including Vicky Phelan, or to the family of those who have passed away.

The Government, in a meeting today, approved this payment after Health Minister Simon Harris briefed colleagues on the initial interim report made by Dr Gabriel Scally.

Minister Harris said: “This payment relates to addressing any financial obstacles women might encounter in having their voices heard as part of his work.  It would not be a bar to further payment in due course.”

The interim report by Dr Scally also recommends:

  • The Provision of a more thorough guide to the CervicalCheck screening programme via the Internet.
  • That the information statements given to women about the restrictions of the tests should be more explicit about the possible reasons why screening might fail to spot abnormalities that are present as these can lead to the development of cervical cancer.
  • That the details for women accompanying the consent form should guarantee that they will have complete access to their cervical screening record when they require it.
  • That the information for women accompanying the consent form should guarantee that should there be an issue or mistake of any significance with the screening or reporting process, open disclosure of all the information will take place in a swift, considerate and accurate fashion.

Mr Harris said the UK expert believed the provision of information to women in Ireland who participate in screening tests “is comparable with that available elsewhere and in some respects is better. He also found that the process of completing a consent form at the time of screening is a major strength of the Irish programme. However, he does make a number of important recommendations to improve the information provided to women, including strengthening the statements on the limitations of screening. I will immediately ask the HSE to implement the four recommendations related to this.”

Although Dr Scally has given an opening report on schedule it is thought that he will not be able to meet the end of June deadline for a final submission of his report. Minister Harris said that the inquiry will need to review the facts and get answers quickly for women, while also locating issues that may merit a further in depth statutory examination.

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Man settles €850k Compensation Over his Wife’s Wrongful Death

Widower, Donal O’Sullivan, who took a wrongful death compensation action against a GP and the Health Service Executive after his wife died just a day after a blood test showed she had low levels of potassium, has settled his High Court compensation action for €850,000.

The court was told that mother-of-four Maureen O’Sullivan, who was in her 50s, should have been rushed to hospital after a test showed she had low levels of potassium. Due to this Mr O’Sullivan, from Crookstown Co Cork, sued GP Therese Crotty of Main Street, Ballincollig, Co Cork, and the HSE over the wrongful death of his wife on November 8, 2011.

It was alleged that on the previous November 4, Ms O’Sullivan had seen Dr Crotty as she was suffering from palpitations. A blood test was taken and taken for analysis at Cork University Hospital. On November 7 the result indicating severe hypokalaemia, a low level of potassium, was sent to the Doctor’s surgery in Ballincollig.

The GP, it is claimed, did not arrange to admit Ms O’Sullivan to hospital immediately upon learning she suffered severe hypokalaemia did not advise the patient that this is what she was suffering from.

Furthermore, it was argued that the HSE did not adequately communicate the importance of the abnormal blood test results to the doctor and that there was an absence of appropriate systems of communication. Additionally, it was further stated by Mr O’Sullivan’s legal representatives that the HSE had depended on a clerical officer to communicate the test results that they required urgent clinical attention.

In a letter read to the court, Dr Crotty and the HSE apologised for their role in the events that led to Ms O’Sullivan’s death. It addressed the O’Sullivan family on behalf of Dr Crotty saying: “I deeply regret the tragic circumstances that led to the death of your wife, mother and sister Ms Maureen O’Sullivan. I apologise unreservedly for the part I played in the events leading up to her death. I am acutely conscious of the pain and suffering which this has caused to you all.”

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Irish Cancer Society Provides Extra Counselling for Those Impacted by CervicalCheck Scandal

The Irish Cancer Society has also revealed that it is making emergency funding for an extra 500 counselling sessions in their centres across the country. The Society made this announcement in order to alleviate some of the worry among those impacted by the controversy.

In tandem with this the Government has announced that a cervical smear test will be provided for free to everyone who is worried after the recent revelations in the CervicalCheck scandal.

This offer is being made available to ease the concern associated with the revelations of the incorrect cervical smear test results being discovered. This provision of this service being revealed come after a meeting of senior doctors who sought to address the concerns over the confidence in the CervicalCheck Screening programme was held.

Following a cancer misdiagnosis settlement of €2.5m was announced for Ms Vicky Phelan last week, the CervicalCheck Scandal came to public attention. Ms Phelan had  a cervical smear in 2011 that showed no signs associated with the early stages of cervical cancer. In 2014 a subsequent audit on the results was carried out that indicated the results of that 2011 test were false. Ms Phelan was not advised of this error until 2017 and she now had cervical cancer. In January 2018 she was told that she has just 12 months to live. It was claimed, during the legal action, that her chances of survival would have been 90% if the cancer had been correctly diagnosed in 2011.

The following Support Centres are funding by The Irish Cancer Society nationwide and will be able to provide free professional counselling:

 

  • ARC Cancer Support Centres, Dublin
  • Arklow Cancer Support Group, Wicklow
  • Balbriggan Cancer Support Centre
  • Ballinasloe Cancer Support Centre
  • Cancer Support Sanctuary, LARCC
  • Cois Nore, Kilkenny Cancer Support Centre
  • Cork ARC Cancer Support House
  • Cuan Cancer Social Support and Wellness Group, Co Cavan
  • Cúisle Centre, Portlaoise
  • Dochas Offaly Cancer Support, Tullamore
  • Donegal Cancer Flights & Services
  • Eist, Carlow Cancer Support Centre
  • Gary Kelly Cancer Support, Drogheda
  • Greystones Cancer Support
  • Hope Cancer Support Centre, Enniscorthy
  • Letterkenny Donegal– administered through Sligo Cancer Support
  • Mayo Cancer Support Association, Castlebar
  • Midwestern Cancer Foundation, Limerick
  • Recovery Haven Cancer Support House, Tralee
  • Roscommon Cancer Support Centre
  • Sligo Cancer Support Centre
  • Solas Cancer Support Centre, Waterford
  • Suaimhneas Cancer Support Centre, Nenagh
  • Tallaght Cancer Support Group, Dublin
  • Tuam Cancer Care Centre

 

 

 

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CervicalCheck Helpline Takes Over 2,000 Calls in Three Days

There were over 2,000 calls registered by the CervicalCheck Helpline, established by the Health Service Executive (HSE) to tackle public concerns following the discovery that the results of smear tests completed by a US laboratory in 2014 may have failed to detect the early signs of the disease.

After being made available last weekend a HSE spokesman said that the phoneline, which was put in place by the Serious Incident Management Team (SIMT) was very busy from the time it opened. He stated: “The SIMT was informed that the helpline was once again very busy today. As of 1:30pm there were 614 contacts.”

Minister for Health Mr Simon Harris, speaking at the weekend, had directed that a senior team be put in place to look into CervicalCheck procedures and investigate the 206 cases of the women affected by the screening controversy. The team were mandated to examine each separate case to see if any of the females involved were advised of the delayed cervical cancer diagnosis. Mr Harris also said that he no longer had confidence in the CervicalCheck Senior Management.

Mr Simon Coveney, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, revealed in an interview RTÉ’s that the Government has already moved to make amendments to the system of reporting so that an incident like this will be avoided going forward. Mr Harris commented: “I think learning from this case, I think the Government will move forward on the recommendation of Minister Harris that in cases like this patients are entitled to information quickly. Sometimes it takes cases like Vicky Phelan’s cases to ensure policy change happens quickly”.

Gráinne Flannelly, Head of CervicalCheck programme, resigned from her role in the aftermath of the controversy. This came following the legal action taken by Vicky Phelan due to an incorrect smear test result that was completed in 2011. A 2014 audit by showed that the 2011 smear test results were incorrect. However, Ms Phelan was not told about this until September 2017, by which time the cervical cancer had become terminal.

Recently, in January 2018 Vicky Phelan, was informed that she has between 6-12 months to live. In the High Court action against the US laboratory last week Ms Phelan was awarded €2.5m compensation.

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