HSE pays out over €333m to settle claims in the last three years
Published 26/09/2015 | 02:30
The State has paid out over €333m in the past three years to settle personal injury and property damage claims against the health service, according to a report submitted to the Dáil Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
Over a third of this sum went on legal costs and fees paid to experts.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) said all of the cases were handled on its behalf by the State Claims Agency.
The data shows the overall cost of such claims has surged in recent years, jumping from €83.5m in 2012 to €125.5m in 2013 and it reached €124.5m last year.
Some €208.2m was paid out in damages over the three years.
Lawyers acting on behalf of people who sued the HSE, voluntary hospitals or national support services for damages were paid €67.4m.
The State Claims Agency's own legal costs in those cases amounted to €48.3m.
A further €9.5m was paid out to experts whose evidence was used, according to the report.
The State Claims Agency took over the handling of personal injury and property damage claims against the HSE five years ago.
According to the report, a key feature of the State indemnity was that the injury or damage must have been caused by the negligence of the HSE, its servants or persons acting on its behalf.
"The general definition of negligence is that it is either an omission to do something which a reasonable person would do, or an act which a prudent or reasonable person would not do," the report said.
Meanwhile, a senior counsel has been appointed by Junior Health Minister Kathleen Lynch to carry out a review of how the HSE investigated claims that dozens of disabled children were sexually abused in a foster home in the south east.
Conor Dignam SC is to examine the procedures used in the commissioning of two separate reports into the matter and why those reports have yet to be published.
The PAC has previously heard that while health board officials were informed of serious allegations in the 1990s, the foster home remained in operation for some time afterwards and children continued to live there.
Investigations were only launched by the HSE after two whistleblowers made protected disclosures in 2009 and 2010.
Costs associated with the reviews have topped €500,000, but the findings have been withheld by the HSE, which said it needed clearance from gardaí and the Office of the Wards of Court.
The committee's vice chairman, Fine Gael TD John Deasy, has alleged "a clique of HSE managers" helped cover up the claims.
Mr Dignam has been asked to provide an interim report within four weeks.
In a statement, the Department of Health said: "Any further work to be undertaken will then be decided following consideration of the interim report."