Clinical Indemnity Scheme – Topical Issues Debate

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Speech by Dr. James Reilly T.D., Minister for Health.

I would like to thank Deputy Daly for raising this issue.  In order to effectively and comprehensively provide indemnity to hospitals and their patients, in the event of a medical mishap, the State introduced the Clinical Indemnity Scheme in 2002. This Scheme is managed by the State Claims Agency and provides a robust system for managing eligible claims that arise nationally, from that date.

Indemnity in respect of claims made relating to incidents occurring prior to the introduction of the Clinical Indemnity Scheme in 2002 is a matter for the individual hospitals concerned and their insurers. The Government at the time decided that the Clinical Indemnity Scheme should not apply retrospectively given that individual hospitals and doctors would have purchased indemnity from insurers on a commercial basis and insurers had an obligation to fully provide the cover which had been purchased.

The Master of the Coombe Hospital informed the Secretary General of my Department in April last year that the hospital had issues relating to insurance cover prior to 1961.

As this matter has arisen in the context of legal proceedings, the Department cannot comment on indemnity obtained by either the hospital or indeed the medical practitioners involved in respect of any individual claims. Indemnity is a complex, technical issue and there is a range of indemnity and insurance arrangements in place for hospitals from before the establishment of the State’s Clinical Indemnity Scheme. My Department, together with the State Claims Agency will continue to monitor the position in relation to historical claims against the Coombe Hospital.

In relation to Symphysiotomy, since coming into office, I have endeavoured to satisfactorily facilitate closure for around 250 women affected by symphysiotomy. On 26 November 2013, Government approved the appointment of retired Circuit Court Judge Yvonne Murphy to assist in setting out a possible course of action in relation to women who have undergone surgical symphysiotomies.

Judge Murphy commenced her review of issues relating to Symphysiotomy in December and submitted her report to me in mid-March. I am examining the report and its recommendations and I intend to bring a Memorandum to Government in the coming weeks, so that a decision can be taken as early as possible regarding next steps.

Any proposals brought to Government will also take into account the findings of the independent research report on Symphysiotomy in Ireland 1944-1984, which was commissioned by the Department (the Walsh Report), along with any other relevant information. It is also intended that the Walsh Report will be published once the Government has decided on its response to this complex and sensitive issue.