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Nursing Negligence Claims

Nursing negligence claims in Ireland are the exception rather than the rule. Nurses generally perform an excellent service in Ireland, however there are times when the high level of care is not maintained due to an under-funded health service. When losses and injuries are sustained because nurses cannot keep up with all the duties thrust upon them, you are entitled to making nursing negligence claims for compensation. A claim for nursing negligence compensation is usually made against the practice, hospital or health authority for which the nurse works, so if you have received a high level of care with just the one exception, it is not the nurse personally who is liable in nursing negligence claims. For more information on whether you have a nursing negligence claim for compensation which is worth your while to pursue, you should speak directly to an experienced personal injury solicitor.

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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Judge Approves Settlement of 22 Claims for Abuse at a Creche

A High Court judge has approved the settlement of twenty-two claims for abuse at a crèche relating to alleged assaults at the Links Abington Crèche in Dublin. The Links Abington Crèche in Malahide, Dublin, was the subject of an RTÉ documentary in March 2013. The documentary – “Breach of Trust” – saw pre-school children being physically and verbally abused by staff at the childcare facility. Following broadcast of the documentary, the parents of twenty-two of the children made claims for abuse at a crèche against Links crèche Southside Ltd, Links crèche Montessori Ltd, and the owners of the crèche – Padraig and Deidre Kelly. The defendants entered a full defence against the claims for abuse at a crèche but, at the High Court, Mr Justice Kevin Cross heard that offers of settlement had been made to the parents of the children without an admission of liability. The settlements were divided into three categories for children who had been physically or verbally abused during the broadcast of the documentary, for children who had been sitting alongside those who had been abused, and for children who were present at the time of the alleged abuse, but not shown in the broadcast. The judge was told details of some of the treatment that the children received. One boy with mobility issues had been grabbed roughly and placed forcibly onto a mat when he tried to crawl away during “circle time”. Other cases involved children who were shouted at during mealtimes, and one involving a child who had a hand slapped and was sworn at for handling food. It was alleged in the claims for abuse at a crèche that many of the children exhibited a high level of stress around nappy changing time and had developed “behavioural difficulties” that had stopped once the children were removed from the crèche. However, none of the children appear to have suffered any long-term consequences of the alleged mistreatment. After hearing that a separate claim made by the parents for nervous shock had been settled out-of-court, Judge Cross approved the settlements of the claims for abuse at a crèche, which ranged from €40,000 to €75,000 depending on the category of alleged abuse each child had suffered.

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Family Claim Compensation for a Fatal Post-Surgical Infection

The family of Susan McGee, who died from sepsis after undergoing a hernia operation, are claiming compensation for a fatal post-surgical infection. Susan McGee (52) from Rush in County Dublin attended the Hermitage Medical Clinic on 13th July 2013 for elective hernia surgery. The surgery appeared to go well, and Susan was discharged on 16th July to be cared for by one of her two children – Melissa Barry. On the following day, Susan complained of feeling unwell and having abdominal pain. Melissa took her back to the Hermitage Medical Clinic, where she was readmitted for observation. However, Susan´s condition deteriorated over the next few days and, on 22nd July, a CT scan revealed an obstruction in her small bowel. Susan underwent an operation to clear the blockage, but her condition continued to deteriorate and she was transferred to the Beaumont Hospital on 23rd July. Susan died the following day from multiple organ failure brought on by sepsis that had been triggered by a C.difficle infection. The initial inquest into Susan´s death in February 2015 had to be adjourned as only the consultants in charge of Susan´s care had given statements, and there was a risk that the evidence given by the nursing staff at the Hermitage Medical Clinic may be contradicted by that forwarded by Melissa Barry. When the rescheduled inquest was held in June 2015, Dublin City Coroner´s Court heard that there had been a failure by nursing staff at the Hermitage Medical Clinic to report brown faecal fluid draining from Susan´s nasogastric tube, and that Susan´s vital signs had not been recorded between 8:00am and 6:00pm on Sunday 21st July – three days before she died. The inquest also heard that there was only one resident medical officer on duty over the weekend of 20th/21st July – Dr Lachman Pahwani. Dr Pahwani testified that he had tried to spend as much time with Susan as possible over the weekend, but Susan was one of 81 patients that were staying at the medical facility at the time. A verdict of death due to medical misadventure was recorded and, after the inquest hearing, Susan´s family sought legal advice before claiming compensation for a fatal post-surgical infection, the failure to identify the infection in an appropriate timescale and the loss of a loved one due to medical negligence. According to the family´s solicitor, a summons has now been issued and served on the Hermitage Medical Clinic.

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Alliance wants Legislation to Improve Patient Safety in Hospitals

The Medical Injuries Alliance has called on politicians to fix a “glaringly obvious” problem that would help to improve patient safety in hospitals. The Medical Injuries Alliance is an organisation that helps patients who have suffered injuries due to mistakes in hospitals get answers about how the mistakes were made. Among the Alliance´s objectives is the promotion of studies into why mistakes occur, so that the results can be used to improve patient safety in hospitals. In order to meet this objective, the Alliance has frequently called on politicians to introduce laws that would force healthcare professionals to admit when mistakes have been made, to explain how they happened, and to issue an apology immediately. The “Duty of Candour” – the Alliance claims – would also accelerate the settlement of hospital negligence compensation claims. The Alliance has a statement on its website that reads “the duty of candour in hospitals and doctors should be placed on a statutory footing, entitling injured patients to an accurate account of how they came to suffer medical injury in Irish hospitals” and, to force the issue of patient safety in hospitals, the Alliance has now written a letter to the Irish Times. The letter was prompted by an article that appeared in the Irish Times that commented on a nine-year delay in the settlement of a cerebral palsy compensation claim. The paper wrote that the delay was due to alleged “stonewalling” by the Health Service Executive (HSE), pointed out that duty of candour laws were implemented in the UK last year, and that similar legislation is clearly needed in Ireland. The response by the Medical Injuries Alliance was much in agreement with the sentiments of the article and highlighted the necessity to improve patient safety in hospitals. Joice McCarthy – the Secretary of the Medical Injuries Alliance – wrote that many hospital negligence victims are forced to take legal action to get answers that healthcare professionals are reluctant to give. Ms McCarthy added that injured patients who have been through the legal process often found it to be a stressful and protracted experience; and she alluded to the recent “shabby episode” disagreement between the HSE and the State Claims Agency, in which both blamed the other for a six-year delay in settling a hospital negligence claim. Ms McCarthy concluded her letter: “Instead of blaming any particular State organisation, or indeed having different State organisations blame one another for the current difficulties, it is high time politicians simply acted to introduce a legal duty of candour in order to fix what seems to be a glaringly obvious problem”.

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HSE Investigates Claims of Negligent Care at Home for Intellectually Disabled

The HSE is two launch two investigations into claims of negligent care at a home for intellectually disabled residents following revelations made in the RTÉ documentary Primetime. The RTÉ documentary focused on negligent care at a home for the intellectually disabled in Swinford, County Mayo – Áras Attracta. “Inside Bungalow Three” contained video footage of residents being physically and emotionally abused that had been secretly recorded by a member of RTÉ´s investigative team posing as a work experience student. Among the most disturbing examples of negligent care shown in the documentary were scenes of the residents being kicked and slapped, denied access to the bathroom and being sat upon. The abuse of defenceless residents prompted Taoiseach Enda Kenny to described the negligent care at the home for the intellectually disabled as “sickening”. Prior to the broadcast of the program, RTÉ contacted the Health Service Executive (HSE), who have now launched two investigations –  Christy Lynch, chief executive of the KARE organisation for people with disabilities in County Kildare will chair an investigation into the allegations specifically made in “Inside Bungalow Three”, while Dr Kevin McCoy, a consultant and former member of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, has been appointed by the HSE to lead a review of services at Áras Attracta generally. The director general of the HSE, Tony O’Brien, said in a statement that the examples shown of negligent care at the home for the intellectually disabled “falls well below the standards that we expect in the health services”. Several members of staff have subsequently been suspended, and the Gardaí and the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) are also conducting investigations into the alleged abuse at Áras Attracta. Tony O´Brien also apologised to the residents of Áras Attracta and their families for the negligent care that had taken place. He said that the HSE did not wish to “pre-empt the findings of an independent investigation” but that it has taken several immediate actions to “guarantee that a safe and caring environment exists for the residents of Bungalow Three”.

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Counsel tells Court HSE Should Apologise for Cerebral Palsy Negligence

The High Court has heard calls for the HSE to apologise for the cerebral palsy negligence that led to a young girl being traumatised at birth and suffering permanent injuries. Grace Orchard from Carrigaline in County Cork was born at St Finbarr´s Maternity Hospital on 23rd February 2006 after her mother had been administered syntocinon to help speed up her contractions. According to the evidence provided at the High Court in Dublin, the drug had been administered inappropriately and, as a result, Grace was delivered by forceps after four previous attempts to bring her into the world – including one using a vacuum cup – had failed. Grace had to be resuscitated after her delivery, and was badly bruised due to the trauma she had experienced. She was subsequently diagnosed with dyskinetic cerebral palsy which – according to counsel – was attributable to “appalling poor handling” by hospital staff during her delivery. Describing the circumstances of Grace´s birth as a “tragedy”, Grace´s counsel told Mr Justice Daniel Herbert at the High Court that Grace had been left in a catastrophic position and that the HSE should apologise for the cerebral palsy negligence. The Court heard that Grace´s family did everything they could for her during her early years – including taking her to a specialist centre in New York for physiotherapy – and that Grace had been accepted into mainstream school, but the services available to her are being reduced due to cut-backs. Through her mother – Deidre O´Callaghan – Grace made a compensation claim for cerebral palsy negligence against St Finbarr´s Hospital and the Health Service Executive (HSE); and the HSE admitted liability two weeks before the court hearing was scheduled to commence. Consequently the case continues for the assessment of damages only.

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HSE Apologise for Negligent Medical Care in Dehydration Death Case

The High Court has heard an apology from the Health Service Executive (HSE) regarding the negligent medical care which led to a woman dying in hospital from dehydration. In January 2010, Eileen Brady (65) from Crosskeys, County Cavan, attended her family GP suffering from mouth ulcers. She was referred to Cavan General Hospital, where her condition was diagnosed as being attributable to poor fluid intake, and Eileen was admitted into the hospital to be treated for dehydration. Eileen – a mother of five – was at the time undergoing chemotherapy at a Dublin hospital and, because of the treatment she was receiving for her stomach cancer, her veins collapsed and the dehydration treatment was ineffective. However, whereas alternative procedures were available to treat Eileen, a “catalogue of errors” then followed at the hospital which resulted in her death the next day from multiple organ failure. Ms Justice Mary Irvine at the High Court heard medical experts testifying that Eileen´s dehydration could have been reversed if her charts had been examined properly, if senior doctors had been consulted about Eileen´s health or if anybody had spoken with the Dublin hospital that was providing Eileen with her chemotherapy treatment. Judge Irvine was also told that Martin Brady – Eileen´s son – had made a claim for compensation against Cavan General Hospital and the HSE; alleging that the family had suffered mental distress after his mother´s death due to negligent medical care. The claim, Judge Irvine was informed, had been settled for an undisclosed amount – subject to a public apology. A solicitor representing Cavan General Hospital and the HSE then read out a statement in which the two parties apologised for the negligent medical care which resulted in Eileen´s death, and the subsequent grief, hurt and stress that had been suffered by her immediate family and friends. Another of Eileen´s sons – Aidan Brady – responded on behalf of the family. He said he hoped that both Cavan General Hospital and the HSE had learned from “the grave mistakes” made in this case “and that no other family would have to go through the trauma and distress that we have suffered”. Ms Justice Mary Irvine extended her personal sympathy to Eileen´s family before closing the hearing.

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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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Coroner says Hospital Death was due to Lack of Risk Assessment

A broken-hearted family are to make a claim for compensation after a Coroner found their daughter´s tragic hospital death was due to the lack of a risk assessment. The report followed the death of Amy Hauserman, who died at the age of 26 while taking a bath in Melbourne´s Frankston Hospital in March 2008. Amy had voluntarily been admitted to the hospital after doctors feared she was showing signs of schizophrenia which had previously resulted in Amy experiencing anorexia. Two days after she had entered the psychiatric department of the hospital, Amy was allowed to take a bath, during which time – according to the Coroner´s report – she either lapsed into an unconscious state or slipped as she tried to get out of the bath. Amy was found face-down in the bath having died from “a hypoxic brain injury in a setting of immersion” which could have been avoided had a nurse been present in the bathroom. Coroner Peter White said at the hearing into Amy´s death that “I find that the absence of supervision was a primary feature leading to her death, in that it caused or contributed to an inability to successfully intervene and to give effect to her rescue.” He also highlighted that no risk evaluation have been undertaken and that Amy was allowed an unsupervised bath without the advice of her consultant being sought. One of the nurses who worked on the ward at the time gave evidence that she was unaware there was a protocol for patients taking baths, but she was contradicted by the Head of Nursing who said that all ward patients should only be allowed to take a bath after a risk assessment had been conducted and that observations should be done through direct visual and oral contact. Immediately after the hearing had concluded, Amy´s father announced that the family would be making a compensation claim for a hospital death due to the lack of a risk assessment, and a date in May 2014 has been assigned for the compensation hearing.

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Massive Rise in Hospital Compensation Settlements in 2010

According to details released by the State Claims Agency, it  has already paid out on fifth more in hospital compensation settlements during  the first eight months of the year compared with the calender year 2009. The State Claims Agency had already paid hospital compensation settlements of €59.9 million up to August 2010, compared to the 2009 total hospital compensation settlement payments of €48 million.  At the current progression,  the Agency will make compensation settlements of almost €90 million throughout 2010.  This is an increase of almost 50% on the previous year. Mary Harney, The Minister for Health, has revealed some measures to improve the safety of patients. Chief among these are draft healthcare standards formulated by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa), which has now begun a public consultation phase. The Health Minster said that about 10% of hospital admissions encountered an ‘adverse event’, and about 1% of the these events would result in injury or death.  Commenting on the adverse events, the Minister Harney stated “Many of them are systemic failings and many of them are avoidable”. However, as with the recent DePuy recall, it should also be noted out that though the rate of adverse events in HSE run hospitals is relatively high, the HSE is not always to blame.

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