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More mediation required in medical negligence cases – Oireachtas Committee

The Committee is recommending that a series of protocols prior to any legal action apply to all medical negligence cases to reduce costs.

In a report on the costs of medical indemnity, published today, the Committee is also recommending new legislation, proactive HSE support and establishment of an independent advocacy to help embed a culture of open disclosure into the Irish health system.

The Committee says a duty of candour should be a professional obligation for health professionals, and that medical professionals must be supported so that they can be open in highlighting mistakes when they do occur.

Other recommendations include that the HSE introduce a standardised complaints resolution service, in line with the Ombudsman’s recommendations; the medical indemnity lower cap be reduced to €250,000 and the higher cap reduced to €500,000, to help ease the pressure on private consultants; and consultants with low numbers of claims be rewarded with lower premiums.

Committee Chair Mr Jerry Buttimer TD said: “Medical indemnity insurance costs are a strategic challenge for the health sector, with costs prohibitively expensive for many medical consultants, causing some to consider leaving full-time private practice. Given the nature of the topic discussed, it is inevitable that the report considers a number of legal matters.

“In order to avoid a ‘siloed’ approach to policy, a number of general comments on legal issues are included in the Committee’s recommendations for further progression elsewhere. So the Committee will forward a copy of this report to the Ministers for Health and Justice and Equality, and to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality, for their consideration.”

He said adverse medical events are traumatic for patients, families, and medical professionals.

“We examined international best practice to look at ways to improve the patient experience and to reduce the cost of medical negligence. The report is informed too by the deeply personal and powerful evidence provided by the bereaved parents at Portlaoise Hospital to our Committee, which underlined the need to take strong action to reduce the number of avoidable medical errors and the cost of prolonged legal actions.”

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