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Lack of learning and transparency to blame for rising hospital liabilities
Coleman Legal LLP
April 02, 2024
Hospital liabilities in Ireland are projected to surpass €4 billion. Experts stress transparency and external investigations to reduce claims and improve patient trust.

Hospital liabilities to surpass €4bn amid calls for transparency

The outstanding liability of Irish hospitals for accidents will likely surpass €4bn this June when fresh figures are to be published. These accidents include infant injury claims and slips and falls in Irish hospitals.

However, medical negligence specialists argue that these numbers could be significantly reduced if hospitals were more forthcoming about their errors. Dave Coleman, managing partner at Coleman Legal LLP, emphasised the importance of transparency from the outset.

He suggested that a more open and understanding approach could mitigate the number of cases escalating to court, as patients often seek legal recourse due to dissatisfaction with the treatment received from medical staff and hospital management.

Coleman highlighted the significance of independent scrutiny of serious incidents involving hospital staff, advocating for external investigations over internal ones. He also blamed the lack of learning from past mistakes as a significant factor in this rising taxpayer burden. He proposed sharing the independent outcomes of reviews and investigations with patients early to foster “a culture of understanding.”

As of 2022, the State’s estimated hospital liabilities amount to €3.8 billion. Notably, the proportion of liabilities attributed to “catastrophic” injury cases, such as avoidable injuries and deaths of infants, has been rising rapidly, comprising 16% of the total in 2022, compared to 14% in 2021 and 10% in 2020. Claims for less severe injuries have also been rising, however not at the same rate. For instance, liabilities rose from €984 million in 2021 to €1 billion in 2022.

In 2022, the State Claims Agency (SCA) revealed that active claims had increased by 5% over the past five years. In the same period, the increase in liabilities was much steeper, at 57%. The SCA attributed the escalation in estimated liabilities to various factors, including the rising number of catastrophic injury claims and the inflation of general claims.

Medical advancements have also impacted liability figures, increasing life expectancy in catastrophic injury cases. Recent court cases have shed light on the consequences of medical negligence. For instance, Aliyah Bowden alleged that her autism and ADHD resulted from inadequate care during her birth at Midland Regional Hospital, Portlaoise, in 2013.

Although the HSE denied the claims of harm caused to the baby, it acknowledged errors in the delivery process. Bowden settled her claim following mediation, with the HSE accepting 40% of hospital liabilities for the incident. She will receive an interim payment of €733,000 for the next eight years.

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Clodagh Magennis

Clodagh Magennis

Head of Client Services

F: 1800-844-104
E: [email protected]

At Coleman Legal, excellence in customer care is paramount. We aim to meet both prospective and existing clients’ needs professionally and in a friendly manner with a clear objective of giving quality legal advice and reaching a positive outcome.

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