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HSE Admits Liability for Death of Newborn “Six Years Too Late”

The HSE has admitted liability for the death of a newborn, stating that their staff had indeed mismanaged her birth. The baby’s parents have rejected the apology offered by the HSE, stating that it was “six years too late”.

In February 2009, Caoimhe Mulcair was born at Limerick’s Midland Regional Hospital. Her parents, Joan and John, had been struggling to have a child for many years, and were delighted when their baby girl was born. Shorly after she was born, a midwife noticed that Caoimhe’s cry was abnormal for a newborn. Concerned about her condition, Caoimhe then transferred to the hospital’s special care unit for specialist attention. In spite of this, she died just thirty-nine minutes after her birth in her mother’s arms.

Joan and John sought the advice of a solicitor to seek compensation for the death of their newborn baby. They made a claim for medical negligence compensation against the Health Service Executives (HSE) and the Midland General Hospital. They alleged that the hospital failed to act after Caoimhe’s foetal heart rate was noted as slow when a scan was taken just before she was born. This negligence resulted in her being starved of oxygen in utero. However, the HSE disputed these allegations until September 2014, at which time the Mulcairs were offered an undisclosed settlement of compensation.

Earlier this month, a court in Limerick ruled that Caoimhe had died because of medical misadventure. An independent medical professional provided evidence that a slow foetal heart lead to the deprivation of oxygen to her brain. During the hearing, Collette Cowan, Chief Executive of the Midland Regional Hospital, read an apology to Joan and John for their daughter’s death.

This apology was rejected by the couple, who told reporters that it was delivered “six years too late”. Once the inquest had finished, John told reporters that whilst the couple were fighting for a compensation settlement, the HSE issued no apology and that it was shameful that the HSE “an ordinary decent family through the pain and torment we had to endure for over six years”.

Later, a spokesperson for the HSE clarified that it was the State Claims Agency, not the HSE, that handled compensation disputes. However, a columnist for the Irish Times was not impressed by this “passing of the buck”, writing that “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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