The Master of the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin has called on the HSE to address the problem of senior doctor availability – more of which, he claims, would reduce medical negligence cerebral palsy cases.
Dr Sam Coulter-Smith asked for the ear of the Health Service Executive while speaking to doctors, midwives and families at a conference aimed at reducing the number of medical negligence cerebral palsy cases in Ireland.
The doctor said that the number of medical negligence cerebral palsy cases each year was the same as it was two decades ago – despite an increase in foetal monitoring and births by Caesarean section – and that preventable mistakes were being made by inexperienced medical staff.
The problem according to Dr Coulter Smith is that, under the current consultant contracts, senior doctors only have to work in a hospital between 8.00am and 8.00pm. Outside of those hours they could be on call at home, and miles away from the hospital should an emergency occur.
Consequently, the conference was told, junior doctors are being asked to make decisions regarding the health of mothers and babies without the necessary experience. Dr Coulter-Smith said “there needs to be 24/7 cover of labour wards by senior doctors to address this problem”.
The Master then proceeded to explain the measures that had been introduced at the Rotunda Hospital to help reduce the number of medical negligence cerebral palsy cases, whereby a second tier of experienced doctors had been established who were available at the hospital when an emergency occurred outside of “normal” hours.
However, he admitted that these measures were contrary to the advice given by the Health Service Executive, who wanted the Rotunda Hospital to reduce the number of medical staff, and he called on the HSE to address the problem concerning the problem of senior doctor availability – commenting that the amount the State spent each year on paying compensation for medical negligence cerebral palsy cases was equivalent to his hospital´s annual budget.