Billion reasons to stop the blunders
MEDICAL negligence has cost NSW taxpayers close to a billion dollars in the past five years, caused misery for hundreds — and it’s only going to get worse.
Despite every public hospital desperately needing funds, the state government had to pay out $931 million from July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2017, for more than 3810 claims. Of those, 130 were awarded over $1m each.
And a leading Sydney obstetrician has also warned of a coming “tsunami” of future claims due to the government policy Towards Natural Birth, aimed at cutting the caesarean rate, which has led to a quadrupling of forceps deliveries, which can cause birth trauma injuries.
In 2016 alone, close to $40m was paid out for obstetrics or midwifery-related mishaps, NSW Health figures show.
Cases involve babies being born with cerebral palsy due to being starved of oxygen, doctors failing to diagnose abnormalities and stillbirths.
Leslie Aboud, medical negligence lawyer with Gerard Malouf, said one the biggest cases he had prosecuted centred on a woman sent home from a midwife-led birth centre in Sydney’s north, rather than being referred to hospital. The child was born severely disabled and the family was awarded $10 million.
NSW president of the Australian Medical Association Professor Brad Frankum said the system was imperfect but compensation was in place to help deal with such tragedies.
“All medical procedures carry risks and it’s terrible when things go wrong. At those times it’s appropriate that compensation is available to the people and families affected,” Prof Frankum said.
Sydney obstetrician Professor Peter Dietz warned of “a tsunami of future claims” due to increased forceps deliveries. Forceps deliveries carry a higher risk of tearing the perineum and pelvic floor.
“The standard payout for a third or fourth degree tear in the UK is around $2m and there are now cases in the pipeline here,” Prof Dietz said.
“I’m severely worried about future liability because forceps use is going up and up. This will get much worse. We have older women with stiffer tissue more likely to tear. I would say there is between 500 and 1500 women who would have a case at present.”
Amy Mageropolous delivered her baby boy via forceps in February last year after a 24-hour labour.
She now has a permanent triple prolapse of her bowel, bladder and uterus. She has required a nerve block to minimise the daily pain.
“Now I’m having trouble living my daily life,” she said.
A spokesman for NSW Health said the $931m was actually $193m lower than the previous period. “Claims can be lodged, and payments made, years after an event occurs, and the areas within the public health system where the most adverse events occur are usually areas with the highest clinical risk,” he said.
Amy Mangeropoulos and husband Denis with baby Bobby, who had to be delivered by forceps.