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Journalist Criticises Implementation of Open Disclose Policy in Ireland

Journalist Catherine Shanahan has written an opinion-editorial for the Irish Examiner which criticises the open disclosure policy created for the Health Service Executive, saying that it has not been adequately enforced in hospitals around Ireland.

In November 2013, the policy was created to dictate when the HSE should tell families when there are issues with the standard of healthcare provided to patients. However, despite being described as “good on paper”, it is yet still not enforced in many of the hospitals nationwide.

Shanahan used the details of seven medical negligence cases that occurred in 2015 and gained some attention by the media. According to Shanahan, the cases she chose-many to do with birth negligence claims-demonstrate how the HSE are extremely reluctant in admitting to their wrongdoings. As a result of the lack of proper disclosure, if patients want to learn the true story of the events they endured, they and their families are forced to go to court. It is usually only then that the HSE will accept liability.

Shanahan examined Gil Russell’s case, which was one of the most well-known because of involvement of with the Sates Claim Agency in delaying her compensation settlement. Born in 2006 with cerebral palsy because of a “prolonged and totally chaotic” delivery which left her deprived of oxygen in utero, Gill and her family brought the HSE to court to seek compensation. It was only then, in 2012, that HSE only issued an apology. At the same time, an interim settlement of compensation was awarded.

The Russell family were back in the High Court in 2014 to be awarded a €13.5 million lump settlement. This was was the largest ever awarded by the state for cerebral palsy, and as such, the State Claims Agency made an attempt to appeal the settlement, stating that it was too much. Their case was later rejected by the High Court. However, they continued to protest, and the case was then taken to the Supreme Court – again depriving Gill and her family of the settlement.

Other cases mentioned in the editorial included Skye Worthington and Katie Manton – both suffered similar circumstances to Gill Russell, and both waited for years to receive an apology from the Health Service Executive for their mismanaged births.

The opinion-editorial made a clear and concise argument that the open disclosure policy is not being applied in Irish hospitals, and more strict regulation is needed. It further stated that the money put towards public and doctor education concerning the policy was a waste of government funds.

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