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Hospital Injury Claims

If you have sustained an injury in a hospital due to the negligence of the hospital or their employees, you may be entitled to make hospital injury claims for compensation. The way in which hospital injury claims are processed will depend on whether your hospital injury is classed as a personal injury or medical negligence and, in order to establish the correct method for claiming hospital injury compensation, you are advised to discuss the circumstances of your injury with an experienced personal injury solicitor at the earliest possible opportunity.

Woman Awarded Compensation for a Hospital Fall

A woman, who fractured her spine in an avoidable accident, has been awarded €58,500 compensation for a hospital fall by a judge at the Circuit Civil Court. Seventy-nine year old Margaret Fitzpatrick attended the Mater Hospital in April 2015 to undergo a gastroscopy procedure as a day patient. Following the conclusion of the procedure, Margaret was given a cup of tea and left alone to recover from being sedated. However, while still under the effects of the anaesthetic, she attempted to get out of bed and fell – sustaining a fractured spine. Margaret – from Finglas in Dublin – remained at the hospital for nearly a month before being transferred to Clontarf Orthopaedic Hospital for further treatment. She was allowed home after three months, but is now heavily reliant on her family for day-to-day living, needs the support of a Zimmer frame to move around, and has to wear a lumbar brace at all times. After seeking legal advice, Margaret claimed compensation for a hospital fall against the Mater Hospital. In her claim it was alleged that, due to a previous history of falling, she should have been closely monitored during her recovery. It was also alleged the hospital had been negligent in its duty of care by failing to adhere to its falls prevention policy. The claim for compensation for a hospital fall went to the Circuit Civil Court, where it was heard by Judge James O´Donohoe. Judge Donohoe heard evidence from an expert witness who testified there was no indication the falls prevention policy had been applied in Margaret´s case. The judge also heard evidence from the recovery unit´s head of nursing who explained how Margaret´s accident had happened. Commenting “what speaks volumes to this court is that the ward nurse who attended the plaintiff was not called to give evidence,” Judge O´Donohoe found in Margaret´s favour and awarded her €58,500 compensation for a hospital fall – giving the Mater Hospital leave to appeal the award provided they paid Margaret €30,000 of the award immediately.

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Health Minister Commits to Open Disclosure in Medical Negligence Cases

Health Minister Simon Harris has said he is going to introduce legislation to enforce the HSE´s guidelines for open disclosure in medical negligence cases. In November 2013, the Health Service Executive (HSE) and State Claims Agency launched a nationwide program of open disclosure in medical negligence cases to support an “open, timely and consistent approach to communicating when things go wrong in healthcare”. Although guidelines were published to support the policy of open disclosure in medical negligence cases, critics have claimed that the policy has not been consistently applied, and that a legal duty of candour in Ireland is required to overcome the “culture” of keeping quiet when mistakes are made. In response to those critics, Health Minister Simon Harris has committed to introduce legislation to enforce the HSE´s guidelines as part of a series of measures intended to improve patient safety in Ireland. Mr Harris was speaking at the State Claims Agency´s first annual “Quality, Patient Safety & Clinical Risk Conference” at Dublin Castle when he announced a “program of significant patient safety measures” that would be overseen by a new National Patient Safety Office. According to Mr Harris, the new department will be responsible for: Establishing and supporting a nationwide patient advocacy service. Implementing a patient safety surveillance system. Setting up a national advisory council for patient safety. Working in conjunction with the Department of Justice and Equality, the National Patient Safety Office will also be responsible for accelerating the Health Information and Patient Safety Bill – a bill creating a national healthcare database to improve the provision and management of healthcare services throughout Ireland. Due to the bill containing measures to protect patients´ private healthcare information, the proposals are unlikely to be enacted until after the European Union has issued revised data protection standards. However, the fact that Mr Harris has acknowledged the importance of open disclosure in medical negligence cases will please many patient healthcare advocates who believe former Health Minister Leo Varadkar sidestepped the opportunity to introduce appropriate legislation in the Civil Liberty (Amendment) Bill 2015.

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Settlement of Birth Injury Brain Damage Compensation Approved

A High Court judge has approved a €1.75 million settlement of birth injury brain damage compensation in favour of an eighteen year old man from County Sligo. Thomas O´Connor was delivered by emergency Caesarean Section on September 6th 1996 at Sligo General Hospital, showing no signs of life due to being deprived of oxygen prior to his birth. He was resuscitated and taken to the hospital´s Intensive Care Unit, but on the way suffered a heart attack and had to be resuscitated once again. Because of twice being deprived of oxygen, Thomas suffered terrible brain damage. He is spastic quadriplegic, blind, fed through a tube and cared for full-time at a residential home close to his family´s home in Collooney in County Sligo. Through his mother, Ann, Thomas made a claim for birth injury brain damage against the Sligo General Hospital and the Health Service Executive – alleging that his mother received a poor standard of care prior to his birth, and that his heart attack was due to the tube used to ventilate him being too deeply inserted. Sligo General Hospital and the Health Service Executive denied liability for Thomas´ brain injury, and contested the claim for birth injury brain damage compensation. Consequently, the case proceeded to the High Court in Dublin, where it was heard by Mr Justice Kevin Cross. At the hearing, Judge Cross was told by expert witnesses that a CTG trace monitoring the foetal heartrate had been discontinued in the morning of Thomas´ birth. This was despite there being clear evidence of foetal distress. Thomas´ birth was avoidably delayed by up to four hours the judge heard. The judge was also told that the tube used to ventilate Thomas had been inserted at a depth of 14cms into Thomas´ lungs. The usual depth of insertion is between 9cms and 10cms, and the consequence of this alleged error was that Thomas was not ventilated effectively, causing him to suffer a heart attack which exacerbated the level of brain damage he suffered. Over the course of the four-week hearing, the Health Service Executive agreed to a €1.75 million settlement of birth injury brain damage compensation. After hearing that the €1.75 million settlement will pay for Thomas´ continued care at the residential home in Collooney, Judge Cross approved the settlement – adding that he was delighted the legal ordeal had come to an end for the O´Connor family.

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IHCA Claims Health Service Funding Crisis Increasing Risk of Hospital Deaths

A warning that the health service funding crisis is increasing the risk of hospital deaths has been made by the President of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association at its annual conference in Cork. Dr Gerard Crotty was addressing delegates at the Irish Hospital Consultants Association AGM when he said that patients were almost certainly dying unnecessarily in Irish hospitals while waiting for a hospital bed. He used figures from international studies to highlight a 30 percent increase in hospital deaths when patients are left waiting on trolleys after being admitted to hospital. Dr Crotty told delegates that he feared what will happen during the winter months; pointing out that there had been a substantial decline in day case patients while hospital beds were being allocated to emergency cases. He said that years of “easy cost-saving measures” was the cause of the health service funding crisis, and that the health service in Ireland was now showing the strain. Referring to the health service as being in “intensive care”, Dr Crotty forecast that there would be a patient safety crisis unless the Government significantly increased funding for frontline health services. He called for a realistic budget – rather than a token gesture by the Government – in order to deliver safe, high quality care to patients without the unacceptable delays which are currently being experienced. During his speech, Dr Crotty also touched upon the acknowledgement by Health Minister Leo Varadkar that the 30 percent pay cut for new entrant consultants had been a mistake. Dr Cotty claimed that it had done nothing to alleviate the health service funding crisis and that it had reduced the attractiveness of senior medical positions. He called upon the Health Minister to completely reverse the 30 percent pay cut to halt the flow of newly graduating doctors taking positions overseas. Delegates at the conference also heard their General Secretary – Martin Varley – announce that a number of consultants had taken legal action against the Department of Health to recover the pay rises they were promised in 2008. Under the agreements – Mr Varley told delegates – consultants were due pay rises from €175,000 to €240,000, but the increases failed to materialise when the economic crisis developed and the Department of Health prioritised other areas of the health service.

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Government Appoints Judge to Consider Claims for Symphysiotomy Injury Compensation

The Government has appointed Judge Yvonne Murphy to work out a solution to the issue of claims for symphysiotomy injury compensation following its U-turn on extending the Statute of Limitations. Dr James Reilly – the Minister for Health – announced this week in a press conference that Judge Yvonne Murphy has been asked to compile options for women who wish to make claims for symphysiotomy injury compensation. Around 300 women survive who underwent the controversial childbirth procedure in Irish hospitals between 1940 and 1990 – many of whom now have difficulty in walking, suffer chronic pain and incontinence as a result. Judge Murphy has been asked to look at feasible compensation options for review in February 2014, to compensate the women for the pain they experienced at the time of the symphysiotomy and throughout the rest of their lives. The Minister said that the Government would contribute to an ex gratia scheme if that was a recommended option , and it is believed that Judge Murphy will be speaking with insurance companies to explore whether they would contribute towards such a scheme. Originally the Government planned to allow a Private Members Bill introduced by Sinn Féin’s Health Spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin through the Dáil, which would have enabled a one-year window for the women claims for symphysiotomy injury compensation. However legal advisors told the Government that, by offering a window in the Statute of Limitations, they could face a legal challenge from the insurance companies who would have been liable for compensating the women and the support for the Bill was withdrawn. Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin criticised plans to keep the statute of limitations in place and said “The type of scheme outlined in the terms of reference offers the women no prospect of adequate compensation for what was so barbarically done to them nor the choice to pursue their rights in the courts.” However Tom Moran – Chairman of the support group Survivors of Symphysiotomy Ltd – welcomed the prospect of his members being able to resolve their claims for symphysiotomy injury compensation. “We welcome this decision to appoint the judge and we hope it leads to women finally being given a chance of some kind of closure.”

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We Have Updated Our Medical Negligence Claims Information Page

We have updated our medical negligence claims information page so that it is more comprehensive than ever before and offers advice on the procedures that need to be completed prior to claiming compensation for medical negligence in Ireland. As ever, the information we provide about medical negligence claims is no substitute for speaking directly with an experienced solicitor and, if you believe that you – or somebody close to you – has suffered a loss, an injury or the avoidable deterioration of an existing condition, which could have been prevented if you had received an acceptable standard of care, you are advised to discuss your individual situation with a solicitor without delay. You can visit our revised page containing medical negligence claims information by clicking on the link below: >> Medical Negligence Claims <<

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Widow to Receive Compensation for Fatal Medication Error

The widow of a man, who died of a muscle failure condition after being prescribed medication for an infected toe which allegedly interacted with his diabetic treatment, is to receive compensation for a fatal medication error. Margaret Devereux from Greenrath in County Tipperary made a claim for compensation for a fatal medication error after her husband – John Devereux – had died in Cork University Hospital in March 2008 from acute renal failure brought on by rhabdmoloysis – a condition in which the muscles break down. John had initially attended the South Tipperary General Hospital in Clonmel in January of that year with an infection in a toe on his right foot. Doctors diagnosed that the infection was due to septic arthritis and prescribed Sodium Fusidate – a medicine often prescribed for bacterial skin infections – before sending him home. However, John´s infected toe got no better, and he started to develop debilitating pains in his arms and legs. He returned to the hospital on February 15th, when he was admitted and five further courses of Sodium Fusidate were administered – causing his condition to deteriorate further and develop into acute renal failure. John was transferred to Cork University Hospital, where he died on 2nd March. Margaret Devereux took legal advice after discovering that her husband´s death could have been avoided if a potential conflict between the Sodium Fusidate that was prescribed for him and his existing diabetic medication had been identified before it was administered, and claimed compensation for a fatal medication error against the Health Service Executive (HSE). The HSE denied any negligence or that it was in breach of its duty of care but, after negotiation, agreed to a compensation settlement of €45,000 which Margaret accepted under legal advice. At the High Court in Dublin, the settlement was approved by Mrs Justice Mary Irvine, who commented that there would have been a “huge hill to climb to establish liability” had the claim gone to court.

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Failure in National Standards Could Lead to Hospital Infection Claims

More patients could be eligible to make hospital infection claims for compensation following health inspections at five Irish hospitals which were found to be in breach of the National Standards for the Prevention and Control of Healthcare Associated Infections. Inspectors from the Health Information Quality Authority (HIQA) made unannounced visits to several hospitals throughout Ireland in June and July and the reports of their inspections have just been made public. The reports reveal a catalogue of breaches in the National Standards which would make patients, visitors or staff who contracted an illness eligible to make hospital infection claims. The five hospitals in which there was a serious lack of hygiene among the medical and nursing staff were:- Waterford Regional Hospital Waterford Regional Hospital, in which inspectors discovered eighteen cases of poor hand hygiene among the twenty-three cases they looked at, patients with suspected transmittable diseases being treated in the general area of the Accident & Emergency Department and a general lack of cleanliness in the hospital A&E Department and the equipment that was used in the hospital. St Michael´s Hospital At St Michael´s Hospital in Dun Laoghaire, inspectors discovered two unhygienic temperature probes – one was visibly unclean and the second had a sticky residue on its screen – and that mould had been allowed to grow in the hospital´s toilets and showering facilities for patients. The inspectors also reported that hand hygiene practices in general posed a risk of transmitting infections to patients. Portiuncila Hospital At Portiuncila Hospital in Galway inspectors found that hospital infection claims could be justified for a number of reasons including problems with the physical environment, waste management and the cleanliness of medical equipment used on patients. Louth County Hospital Inspectors visiting Louth County Hospital discovered two cases of patients with known transmissible infections placed in isolation rooms with the doors left open onto the general ward and hand hygiene was again identified as an issue which could result in hospital infection claims, with inspectors recording in their report “The physical environment and equipment were generally unclean . . . and therefore were not effectively managed and maintained to protect patients and reduce the spread of healthcare associated infections.” Our Lady´s Hospital The Accident & Emergency Department at Our Lady´s Hospital in Navan was found to be generally unclean – with the patient toilets´ walls being described as “heavily stained” – and a high risk of infection was identified in the hospital´s female medical ward, where access to the storage room which contained syringes and needles was “uncontrolled”. Unacceptable Rob Landers – clinical director of Waterford Regional Hospital – described the findings in the report as “unacceptable” and said that compulsory hand hygiene training would be introduced for all workers at the hospital. Waterford Regional Hospital has been given six weeks to develop a quality improvement plan and publish it on the hospital website.

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