Written Answers. - Medical Identity Cover.

John Perry

Question:

648 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Health and Children when he will introduce the scheme of enterprise liability for medical negligence claims; if the proposed scheme will apply to historic liabilities, both notified and unnotified; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20620/00]

John Perry

Question:

650 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to concerns that have been expressed about the scheme of enterprise liability announced recently and in particular the failure of the proposed scheme to provide for historic liabilities in the context of the increasing cost and value of medical negligence claims here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20622/00]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 648 and 650 together.

The briefing paper on reforms in the arrangements for the provision of medical indemnity cover for clinical negligence gives 1 July 2001 as a target date for the introduction of enterprise liability. The transition from the existing arrangements to a system based on enterprise liability is a complex undertaking involving negotiations with a wide range of interests. As enterprise liability will replace a number of existing insurance-indemnity arrangements for different groups of practitioners, it may be introduced in a number of distinct stages.

It is the Government's intention that the enterprise liability system will take on the responsibility for handling and settling claims arising from incidents which occur after the commencement date of the scheme. It is not the intention to relieve existing insurance-indemnity carriers of liabilities which are properly theirs and which they have already been paid to bear. However, the exact basis on which the transition from the existing to new arrangements will be made is a matter for discussion and negotiation.

John Perry

Question:

649 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Health and Children the groups, organisations or individuals he has met to discuss the proposed changes to the indemnification of medical and dental practitioners employed in the public health service; if such consultations are ongoing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20621/00]

The briefing paper on proposed changes to the arrangements for the provision of medical indemnity cover was circulated to interested parties in early August. The only organisation I have met to date has been the Medical Defence Union which had requested a meeting before the briefing paper was circulated. Officials of my Depart ment and their insurance advisers have met a wide range of organisations in recent weeks and are continuing with a programme of meetings with interested parties. Meetings have already been held with representatives of the health boards and voluntary hospitals, organisations caring for those with a mental handicap, the Dublin maternity hospitals, the Irish Patients Association, the Irish Medical Organisation and the Irish Hospital Consultants Association, the Medical Defence Union, the Medical Protection Society and the Irish insurance companies which provide public liability insurance for hospitals.

Question No. 650 taken with No. 648.

John Perry

Question:

651 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the concerns that have been expressed by some of the medical defence organisations concerning the impact of the rising costs of litigation of their members, and their fears that these will deter obstetric members of these organisations from continuing to practice; the steps he has taken to address these concerns; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20623/00]

I am aware of the concerns expressed by the medical profession at the rising costs associated with litigation against hospitals and doctors. My predecessor and the Attorney General met both medical defence organisations which operate in Ireland last December to discuss these concerns. The Attorney General and I have had subsequent meetings with one of the defence bodies on these issues. In August my Department circulated a briefing paper on the reform of the arrangements for the provision of medical indemnity cover. This paper is the subject of active discussion with the medical defence organisations and other interested parties. I have been made aware of the particular problems affecting the cost of providing indemnity cover for obstetricians/ gynaecologists. I am not aware that, to date, the high cost of obtaining indemnity cover for obstetrics has prevented any doctor from entering or continuing to practice in the specialty. Obstetricians in the public health service have 80% or 90% of the cost of obtaining indemnity cover reimbursed by their employer.