State spends twice as much on fighting maternity claims as on recruiting nurses

First maternity strategy to be implemented in same way as successful cancer strategy

Clare Daly: the TD highlighted the “phenomenal sums the State Claims Agency has paid out in maternity cases”. Photograph:  Fergal Phillips

Clare Daly: the TD highlighted the “phenomenal sums the State Claims Agency has paid out in maternity cases”. Photograph: Fergal Phillips

 

The State has spent twice as much fighting legal claims in maternity cases as it has on recruiting nurses, the Dáil has heard.

Independents4Change TD Clare Daly said she welcomed the recruitment of 100 additional midwives for the service at a cost of €3 million.

But she said the HSE spent €6 million last year on cases “taken by women who have been damaged by our maternity services in precisely the same period that the budgets for maternity hospitals were cut”.

Ms Daly said “that money would have enabled the recruitment of 200 midwives”.

She highlighted the “phenomenal sums the State Claims Agency has paid out in maternity cases. A total of €379 million was paid in damages and legal costs between 2007 and 2015.” Ms Daly added that half of all claims are linked to maternity cases.

Minister for Health Simon Harris said maternity services had not received the priority investment they needed but he was determined to fix this.

He said he had earlier this year launched Ireland’s first national maternity strategy. Ms Daly said however that the strategy had not been implemented quickly enough and the Minister was going in the wrong direction, spending on litigation rather than doubling or trebling the number of midwives in maternity services.

She said that 11 months after the publication of the strategy 13 maternity hospitals did not have access to ultrasound scans.

Sinn Féin health spokeswoman Louise O’Reilly said midwives in Mayo University Hospital were being balloted on industrial action because of staff shortages. She said 450 midwives were required and the “Minister’s recruitment plans for the health service are not achieving their target”.

Mr Harris said they were using the same model to implement the national maternity strategy as had been successfully used to implement the national cancer strategy. However he said there was a challenge in recruitment “that goes beyond funding”.

He hoped the public sector pay commission would look at this in exploring sectoral challenges.