Tuesday 20 February 2018

Department of Health gets €45m settlement from UK medical insurance company

Eilish O’Regan, Health Correspondent

A €45m settlement is to the paid to the Department of Health by a UK company which has left the Irish taxpayer to pick up much of the compensation bill for doctors’ blunders in the last decade.

The Medical Defence Union (MDU) received subscription fees from consultants to provide professional indemnity cover for many years – but the decision on whether to pay compensation was always discretionary.

As the scale of compensation awards escalated, and the State Claims Agency was set up over ten years ago, the MDU decided it would exercise this discretion and only provide payouts in selected cases.

The subscriptions paid by the doctors had been subsidised by the Department of Health because the consultants were employed in public hospitals.

It meant that the taxpayer has since had to pay many compensation claims which the MDU refused to cover.

The issue led to a long running row between the Department of Health and the MDU which has now been settled with a €45m payment from the company.

The money will go towards relieving some of the €360m over run by the health service this year which has had to go back to the Department of Finance for a €245m bailout.

Announcing the settlement today the Department of Health 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 in all reasonable circumstances.”

Claims in respect of historic liabilities will now be managed by the State Claims Agency.

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