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HSE Medical Negligence Apology “Six Years Too Late”

The parents of a girl who died shortly after her birth have rejected the HSE medical negligence apology given at her inquest as being “six years too late”.

Caoimhe was born to Joan and John Mulcair at the Midland Regional Hospital in Limerick on 11th February 2009. Joan and John were overjoyed at the birth of a daughter that they had been trying to conceive for four years; but, soon after baby Caoimhe´s birth, it was noticed that she was not crying as new born babies should. Caoimhe was taken to the hospital´s special care unit, but died in her mother´s arms thirty-nine minutes after being born.

Joan and John made a claim for medical negligence compensation against the Midland General Hospital and the Health Service Executive (HSE), claiming that a failure to act on a deceleration in the foetal heart rate had resulted in Caoimhe´s brain being deprived of oxygen. The HSE denied that Caoimhe´s death was attributable to medical negligence until December last year, when the family´s claim for medical negligence compensation was settled for an undisclosed amount.

Last week, a jury at Limerick courthouse returned a verdict of death by medical misadventure after hearing that a deceleration of the foetal heartbeat had been recorded during Joan´s labour, and death was due to a lack of blood and oxygen supply to the brain. During the inquest hearing, Joan and John were read an HSE medical negligence apology by Collette Cowan, the chief executive of the Midland Regional Hospital.

However, after the inquest had concluded, John told reporters that he and his wife rejected the HSE medical negligence apology as it had come “six years too late”. John explained to reporters that there had been no HSE medical negligence apology during the time that the couple had been battling the HSE for compensation, and said that it was a disgrace that the HSE had put “an ordinary decent family through the pain and torment we had to endure for over six years”.

A spokesperson for the HSE later said medical negligence claims were not handled by the HSE but by the State Claims Agency. However, the “passing of the buck” did not impress one Irish Times columnist, who described the treatment that Joan and John had received as a “shabby episode” and who wrote: “A common interest links the HSE and the claims agency and there has been a persistent pattern of denial, prevarication and years of unnecessary delay in dealing with medical claims. The public and aggrieved patients deserve better. So do the vast majority of medical professionals.”

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