HSE Apology for Medical Misadventure Six Years Too Late for Parents

An HSE apology for medical misadventure has been rejected by the parents of a girl who died shortly after her birth because it is “six years too late”.

On 11th February 2009, Joan Mulcair from Corbally in County Limerick gave birth to a baby girl at the Midland Regional Hospital. Joan and her husband John had tried for many years to conceive a child and, despite a painful labour, the couple were overjoyed when baby Caoimhe was born.

However, joy quickly turned to sorrow. It was noticed that baby Caoimhe was not crying as new born babies should. She was rushed to the hospital´s special care unit but died in her mother´s arms thirty-nine minutes after being born.

At last week´s inquest into Caoimhe´s death, the jury heard that a deceleration of the foetal heartbeat had been recorded during Joan´s labour, and death was due to a lack of blood and oxygen supply to the brain. The jury returned a verdict of death by medical misadventure.

During the hearing, Joan and John were read an apology by Collette Cowan, the chief executive of the Midland Regional Hospital. Ms Cowan apologised for the mistakes that had been made prior to and during Caoimhe´s delivery and said that lessons had been learned by the hospital.

However, Caoimhe´s parents rejected the HSE apology for medical adventure, saying that it had come “six years too late”. Speaking after the inquest, John said that it was a disgrace that the HSE had put “an ordinary decent family through the pain and torment we had to endure for over six years”.

John explained to reporters that there had been no HSE apology for medical misadventure during the time that the family had been battling the HSE for compensation. Liability for Caoimhe´s death was admitted last December, and a settlement of the family´s claim was negotiated.

In response to the rejection, a spokesperson for the Health Service Executive said it had no control over the handling of medical negligence claims. He said these were handled by the State Claims Agency. The passing of the buck from the HSE to the SCA was described as a “shabby episode” by a columnist in the Irish Times, who wrote:

“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.”