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.”