THE Department of Health has strongly defended a €45m settlement with a medical indemnity company that left the taxpayer to pick up much of the compensation bill for doctors' blunders in recent years.
The Medical Defence Union (MDU) received subscription fees from consultants to provide professional indemnity cover for many years – but recently only provided payouts in selected cases.
It meant that the taxpayer has had to pay many compensation claims that the MDU refused to cover.
The Department of Health has refused to say how much compensation it ended up paying out for doctors who had been covered by the MDU at the time the medical negligence happened.
But it said the payment was the "best possible settlement".
The money will at least go toward relieving some of the €360m overrun by the health service this year, which led to Health Minister James Reilly going back to the Department of Finance for a €245m bailout.
The department said the State had to step in to provide cover for patients to ensure that "no person who had suffered from a medical mishap in Ireland would be left without compensation and no consultant would be left without cover".
A spokesman said that the issues involved were complex and Mr Reilly and the Government took account of extensive legal and technical advice in deciding to reopen settlement negotiations with the MDU.
He added that the agreement contains a confidentiality clause relating to the negotiations and information exchanged between the parties.