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Saturday 19 October 2019

Medical negligence claims could lead to costs of more than €2.3bn

NTMA chief Conor O’Kelly. Photo: Chris Bellew /Fennell Photography
NTMA chief Conor O’Kelly. Photo: Chris Bellew /Fennell Photography
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Medical negligence legal actions against the State could result in costs of more than €2.3bn, the Dáil's spending watchdog will be told today.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is to examine the escalating costs of such cases as officials from the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) and State Claims Agency (SCA) appear before TDs.

NTMA chief Conor O'Kelly is set to tell TDs the total estimated liability of cases being managed by the SCA is in the region of €3.15bn.

He will say the SCA is dealing with around 10,500 active claims "ranging from relatively low-value claims of property damage to, sadly, tragic cases of catastrophic injury suffered in hospitals within the SCA remit".

Mr O'Kelly will outline that although clinical claims comprise less than 30pc of the overall number of active claims, they make up 74pc of the overall estimated liability.

His statement to TDs says: "Often the most catastrophic cases relate to maternity services and injuries suffered by babies and mothers but we have all seen over the past year or so other high-profile cases relating to the national cancer screening services."

Mr O'Kelly adds: "All of these cases are very difficult for the people involved and their families and they need to be handled with great sensitivity and compassion.

"The SCA is the body nominated by the Oireachtas to manage these cases... and it does what is a very difficult job in a way that requires great judgement, understanding and empathy."

PAC chairman Seán Fleming last night said TDs will be focusing on the escalating costs associated with medical negligence claims.

He said the total €3.15bn value of claims of all types against the State is €490m million up on last year.

Today's PAC meeting will also be attended by officials from the Department of Health and HSE.

Mr O'Kelly will also update TDs on management of the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF), the Apple tax case, and efforts to pay down the national debt. The ISIF is managed by the NTMA and is a sovereign development fund mandated to make commercial investments designed to support economic activity and employment.

Mr O'Kelly will say that based on market valuations the fund has now generated investment gains of €850m since inception in late 2014.

It committed an extra €773m to projects and business last year "which in turn helped to attract additional private sector co-investment of €1.8bn", his statement says.

He will tell how, following the signing into law of the Fossil Fuel Divestment Act last December, the ISIF immediately moved to divest from all fossil fuel investments covered by the law. This amounted to 38 global companies involved in oil, gas and fossil fuels.

The ISIF has also developed an exclusion list of 148 global fossil fuel companies in which it will not invest.

Mr O'Kelly will tell how ISIF has committed €240m to renewable energy projects "in line with its strategy of supporting Ireland's transition to a low carbon economy".

These investments have attracted an additional €1.2bn in co-investment.

The Fossil Fuel Divestment Act was first proposed by Independent TD Thomas Pringle and later backed by the government as part of efforts to tackle climate change.

Irish Independent

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