Irish Medical Organisation

IMO expresses concerns on rising costs of medical claims

Thursday 22nd January 2015. The President of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), Professor Trevor Duffy, has said that fear of litigation has become a major barrier preventing medical professionals from apologising and communicating with patients following an adverse event. Professor Duffy, who was addressing a meeting of the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children, called on the Government to immediately publish the Health Information Bill which was intended to provide protection to a health professional from admitting liability if they were to apologise to patients for any wrongdoing in the case of an adverse event.

Professor Duffy, said that introducing this move “would be a major step towards promoting open disclosure and changing the culture of adversarial litigation following an adverse even; “Rather than focusing on apportioning blame, Open Disclosure Policies should support patients and doctors and focus more on learning from adverse events in order to reduce harm and improve patient safety.”

Professor Duffy also told the Committee that the increasing cost of medical claims to both medical indemnifiers and the State Claims Agency was of growing concern. The State Claims Agency has seen the claims cost increase substantially from €81million in 2010 to €121.2 million in 2013.

Professor Duffy said; “The majority of healthcare professionals aim to provide the best care for their patients. Rarely harm is due to wilful misconduct, most often harm is due to systems failure or unintentional human error.

Prof Duffy pointed out to the Committee that doctors themselves undergo a significant amount of emotional stress as a result of litigation and fitness to practice procedures that accompany litigation. Fear of damage to their reputation and loss of livelihood can impact on a doctor’s psychological and physical health resulting in anxiety, depression and exacerbation of existing health problems.

Prof Duffy said that Healthcare services in Ireland have been subject to unprecedented budget cuts over the last six years with no measurement of the impact of these cuts on patient safety. The impact of political financial decisions on patient safety must be recognised and financing and staffing levels must be restored to stabilise the hospital system.

Prof Duffy also told the Committee that people with disabilities should have automatic entitlement to health care and social supports including access to community therapy services afforded by a Medical card, so that patients and their carers are not required to sue to ensure appropriate long-term care and support.

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