Cost of maternity claims increased by 80pc to €58m in four years
The extent of errors within our maternity services has been laid bare in a new report.
The cost of maternity-related claims rose by 80pc in just four years, according to a State Claims Agency (SCA) report.
Total expenditure on these claims increased from €32m in 2010 to €58m in 2014.
As part of its work, the agency examined cases that centred on "foreign bodies", including swabs which were left in situ after procedures.
A 10-year national review of closed claims involving retained foreign bodies showed that between 2004 and 2014 there were 30 such cases in maternity services. A total of 28 related to retained swabs, one to a retained epidural catheter tip and one to a retained instrument.
The SCA published a new report analysing clinical incidents and claims in maternity and gynaecology services.
Some 75 clinical incidents out of a total of 9,787 were rated as "extreme" in severity, when reported by maternity services to the national incident management system (NIMS) last year.
However, the report pointed out that these were not all avoidable clinical incidents causing harm.
Some related to unavoidable natural events and significant congenital abnormalities.
Among the most common maternity claims were: perineal tears; shoulder dystocia - a potentially serious complication arising when a baby's shoulder becomes trapped during birth; stillbirth; unexpected neonatal death; and cerebral irritability/neonatal seizure.
A total of 19 Irish maternity services were compared for the first time from a clinical incident and claims rate perspective. Some 11 gynaecology services incidents were reported as "extreme" in severity.
A spokesperson for the Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services (AIMS) in Ireland said that the figures were unsurprising.
"We are not surprised that the figures are up because we are certainly hearing from a larger number of women that incidences they are experiencing are becoming more frequent and they are becoming more severe," said Krysia Lynch.
In a statement, the HSE said that the SCA had noted that the reporting of incidents is similar to that in other countries.
"The report also shows that not all events were avoidable - this again is consistent with experience in other countries," the HSE stated.