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Written Answers. - Medical Indemnity Insurance.

Wednesday, 18 December 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 559 No. 6

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 189. Mr. Allen Information on Bernard Allen Zoom on Bernard Allen  asked the Minister for Health and Children Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin  in relation to the proposed enterprise liability for medical indemnity, if his Department proposes to assume responsibility for historic liabilities where there may be a shortfall of insurance funds to meet those liabilities in view of the fact that changes may result in Irish doctors being faced with the liability for historic claims arising from both public and private practice and also Irish patients' claims not being met. [27013/02]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The issue of historic liabilities of the mutual defence bodies is one that remains to be resolved. The MDU and the MPS have historically offered cover to their members on an occurrence basis. This means that they are liable for the costs of a claim whenever it arises provided the doctor concerned was a member when the event giving rise [1568]to the claim occurred. This open-ended cover means that each year the defence bodies receive claims relating to events which occurred many years before. Their long experience of the business of providing professional indemnity cover for doctors should enable them to anticipate the pattern and cost of claims against their members. It is then their responsibility to price the level of their subscriptions accordingly. If the defence bodies are unable to fully fund their historic liabilities it is because they have either failed to properly reserve for them or have not charged the appropriate subscription or a combination of both.

These liabilities remain the responsibility of the defence bodies. It is a matter for them to determine how they will finance them following the introduction of enterprise liability. I am not aware of any suggestion that the burden of financing them will fall on consultants in private practice. The unique feature of the defence bodies is that they exist as mutual organisations formed for the defence of all of their members' interests. The suggestion that one relatively small group of members should shoulder a disproportionate share of the liabilities of a large mutual organisation would be entirely at odds with the history and tradition of these bodies.

I do not see that the introduction of enterprise liability will have any adverse effect on the practice of private medicine in Ireland. In fact it should lead to a reduction in the indemnity costs of many specialties. I acknowledge that complex changes of the nature represented by enterprise liability can have unanticipated indirect consequences. I have repeatedly stated that I will be monitoring the situation closely and that I will liaise with organisations representing the medical profession and the independent hospital sector to ensure that the introduction of enterprise liability does not adversely affect the interdependence between the public and private hospital systems.

Question No. 190 answered with Question No. 171.

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