Sunday 22 September 2019

More than 3,000 cases worth around €2bn pending against State over allegations in failures of clinical care

Stock image: PA Wire
Stock image: PA Wire
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

MORE than 3,000 cases are pending against the State over allegations of failures in clinical care.

The State Claims Agency (SCA), under scrutiny in the wake of the Vicky Phelan case, is dealing with 3,163 cases relating to clinical care.

Clinical claims account for a third of claims pending against the State according to the latest data from the National Incident Management System.

In total, as of May 4, the SCA had been notified of 10,447 active claims ranging from clinical care claims to claims for damages over alleged exposure to physical hazards.

The data was provided to Fianna Fáil’s Niall Collins.

Claims are divided into nine categories and cover a range of scenarios where harm – either physical or psychological – is alleged to have occurred due to negligence on the part of the State.

Clinical care refers to cases  including birth procedures and clinical procedures.

Exposure to psychological hazards due to negligence is the category a claim is most likely to be made in after healthcare issues – some 2,514 claims are in train in this category.

The State agency came under scrutiny for fighting Ms Phelan’s case.

The mum-of-two was awarded €2.5m in a High Court settlement with a US lab over an incorrect smear test in 2011.

Following the conclusion of her cases questions were raised about the decision to defend the case. The agency has since said it will not be fully defending cases similar to Ms Phelan’s where the State is substantially liable.

SCA director Ciarán Breen appeared at the Oireachtas Finance Committee on Tuesday where he confirmed there are currently nine active cases similar to Ms Phelan’s and another where a formal claim has not yet been made.

Mr Breen said three of the women involved had died.

Meanwhile, representatives of the SCA will today appear before the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) which is looking into the CervicalCheck controversy.

Last night PAC chairman, Fianna Fáil TD Seán Fleming, said the committee will question the SCA on why the associated legal costs for clinical claims are “five times greater” than those for general claims, given the vast majority are resolved outside the courts.

The SCA previously told the PAC it was dealing with cases where estimated liabilities totalled more than €2.6bn at the end of 2017.

Almost €2bn of this sum related to the 2,976 active claims in clinical cases at the time.

In a letter to the PAC earlier this year, the SCA said its approach to managing such claims is guided by the principle that “where it is just and proper, people who have suffered a personal injury as a result of a clinical negligence event must be compensated appropriately and as quickly as the circumstances of their cases permit”.

Mr Breen said the SCA deals with plaintiffs and their families who in many instances have “suffered enormous trauma and pain” and the organisation is conscious that it has “a duty to act fairly, ethically and with compassion in all its dealings”.

He added it must ensure no one is under-compensated but no one is over-compensated.


Irish Independent

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