Monday, October 17, 2005

Negligence payout bumps up GHA claims bill

The Government of Gibraltar has paid a total of £2.7 million to meet legal claims against the Gibraltar Health Authority (GHA) between 2000 and September this year, according to figures presented to the House of Assembly.

The bulk of that sum, £2.3 million, was paid during the 2002-3 financial year and relates to a negligence case brought against the GHA by Steven Zayas. A number of medical errors made during his birth in 1986 left Mr Zayas with a permanent disability.

In 1999 his parents, represented by local lawyer Charles Gomez, issued proceedings against the GHA that ultimately led to a record damages’ payment of £2.5 million.

The yearly sums paid out by the GHA in respect of legal claims over the five-year period vary substantially. In the 2000-1 financial year it was £296,835.25; in 2001-2 it was £16,267.31; in 2002-3 it was £2,296,687.75; in 2003-4 it was £56,554.09; and in 2004-5 it was £26,421.40. Between April and September this year, the latest data presented to the House, the GHA paid out £42,437.07 in respect of legal claims.

The House was also told that the GHA has paid a total of £2,781,977.40 in insurance premiums to cover its staff against claims.

Responding to questions from the GSLP/Liberals opposition, the government disclosed that 98 medical malpractice claims had been filed against the GHA over the last five financial years starting from April 2000. It also gave details of the number of complaints dealt with by the GHA’s Complaints Coordinator.

Health minister Ernest Britto told the House that 90 formal complaints had been investigated to the complainants’ satisfaction. A further four complaints were referred by complainants to the Independent Review Panel. But Mr Britto also indicated that the number of happy patients far outweighed the number of complainants. He said that during the same period under review 263 commendations thanking the GHA were received from patients in the form of letters, newspaper adverts and tokens such as flowers and chocolates.

Cancer Study Next Year

The government will produce a report next year on the incidence of cancer in Gibraltar using data from the Cancer Registry that was set up in 1999. Health minister Ernest Britto said the registry would shortly commence a quality audit inline with international guidelines. He warned against drawing conclusions based before the audit was concluded, adding that at least five years’ worth of data was required in order to establish any particular trends. Having made that caveat, however, the minister nevertheless offered some hints of what might lie ahead.

“All the indications are that the graph is steady and no going up or down,” he told the House.

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