Consultants form breakaway group over insurance fees
Private consultants form a new association (aimss) in order to address the rise in clinical indemnity relating to consultants in private practice.
Read the full article from the Sunday Business Post below, where Rachael Liston, partner in our medical negligence department is quoted:
03:55, 13 July 2014 by Susan Mitchell
More than 120 hospital consultants have signed up to a splinter group that has formed out of frustration with the two main doctors’ unions.
The consultants, all of whom work in private hospitals, have joined the Association of Irish Medical and Surgical Specialists (AIMSS).
Orthopaedic surgeon Turlough O’Donnell, one of the founders of AIMSS, said doctors from the Blackrock Clinic and Mater Private in Dublin, as well as others from the Whitfield Clinic in Waterford, Aut Even in Kilkenny and Bon Secours hospitals had joined the newly established association in recent weeks.
AIMSS wants to address the significant rise in the cost of clinical indemnity, with doctors in full-time practice grappling with price hikes of up to 50 per cent.
It wants the government to intervene and get the State Claims Agency, which currently indemnifies doctors working in the public sector, to indemnify consultants in private practice.
”We also want a seat at the table when it comes to negotiating with health insurers and the government, O’Donnell said.
He said that former health minister James Reilly had rejected the association’s attempts to meet him, but that AIMSS would seek a meeting with newly appointed Minister for Health Leo Varadkar.
”The shutters have been down in Hawkins House, but we’re hoping that will change, O’Donnell said. The Medical Protection Society (MPS), which provides cover for the vast majority of consultants in private practice, recently told its members in Ireland that they would face increases of up to 50 per cent in clinical indemnity insurance cover. It has stated that it is acutely aware of the deteriorating viability’ of private medical practice in Ireland and the concern that the latest fee hikes will cause.
O’Donnell said AIMSS, which was co-founded by surgeons Jimmy Colville and Eamon Kelly, would also advocate for patients and advise its members on various aspects of running a private practice.There are an estimated 300 to 350 consultants in Ireland who are solely in private practice.
O’Donnell said consultants were ”disillusioned with the two doctors’ unions: the Irish Hospital Consultants’ Association (IHCA) and the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO).
”We don’t feel they have represented us well, particularly on the issue of indemnity, O’Donnell said.
AIMSS is proposing that consultants pay the State Claims Agency what doctors have paid the MPS up until the recent price hikes.
O’Donnell said the private sector was on the verge of collapse, with some consultants now being hit with medical indemnity bills of €118,000 over a ten month period.
”The indemnity issue could literally shut down every private hospital in the country. My indemnity is Euro 97.500. An orthopaedic surgeon in the UK is paying stg12,500 (€15,700), O’Donnell said.He said he had spoken to a number of doctors who were thinking of emigrating, or retiring early, as a result of consecutive increases in the cost of clinical indemnity.The MPS blamed the increase in subscription rates on a rise in the rate at which doctors are being sued and a rise in the cost of claims.Payouts made in medical negligence cases in Ireland are considerably higher than they are overseas.
It is accepted among solicitors and barristers (and indeed the judiciary) that the current maximum figure in Ireland for general damages (pain and suffering) is Euro 450,000.
In Britain it ranges between Euro 181,000 to Euro 234,000 (£144,000 and £186,500).Claimants typically make claims for general damages and special damages in medical negligence cases. Special damages are the expenses a claimant might incur as a result of the injuries. The payout in Ireland for special damages is many multiples of what it is in Britain, according to legal experts. Rachael Liston, a partner at Orpen Franks Solicitors who specialises in medical negligence, said: ”Multimillion euro payouts, as a result of medical negligence, are now a common feature in the Irish courts. O’Donnell said Ireland needed ”a competitive independent sector. Given 41 per cent of elective surgery is done in the private sector, this will raise serious problems with capacity and threatens to add to patients’ costs.
A doctor’s dilemma
Dr Sharon Moss (left) works as a consultant gynaecologist at Beacon Hospital in Dublin. She set up her practice seven years ago and has built up a practice with 5,000 patients. Moss said she paid €35,000 in medical indemnity in 2011. That figure has increased steadily. Next month, she is due to pay €97,500. ”Like a lot of people, I am angry and dismayed at what is happening, she said. Moss, who is Australian, said her equivalent in Australia is paying €19,300 (AUZ$28,000), for clinical indemnity. Moss phoned the Medical Protection Society on Friday to see whether she could negotiate a lower fee if she stopped operating. The MPS said that was not an option. ”I love what I do, but I’m not being left with many options. I am going to have to consider emigrating, which is not something that I want to do,” she said.