Bil­lion rea­sons to stop the blun­ders

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS - JANE HANSEN

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.

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