National med indemnity claims put spotlight on private health system

28 June 2013
National medical negligence figures released today show Australia's private health care system need to step up to address patient safety concerns, says Maurice Blackburn Lawyers.

A report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Australia's medical indemnity claims 2011-12 shows that for the first time there were more new and closed claims in the private sector than in the public sector.

Maurice Blackburn's head of medical law Kathryn Booth said private system and GP cases being reported was reflective of what the firm encountered regularly in investigating medical negligence complaints.

"There is a common perception that it is solely public hospitals to blame for poor care, however this report shows complaints are also being lodged against the private system and GPs - something reflected in the sorts of cases we see also," Ms Booth said.

"For example, we investigate many claims relating to general practice, including failure to refer patients on for key tests or to see specialists, particularly when patients present with early symptoms of cancer, cardiac or renal illness which may need to be investigated.

"Private hospitals are also not immune from providing poor care, as this report shows and this is something we encounter in the matters we investigate as well," she said.

Ms Booth said today's report again found the total number of medical negligence cases going to court was low, something of benefit both for patients and healthcare providers.

"In any sort of medical claim the priority is always to try and settle the claim as quickly as possible and make sure the care needs of the client are catered for, particularly given many clients are suffering from very serious injuries that have a significant impact on them and their families.

"The figures released today reflect our experience that most cases are resolved before a costly trial. That's good for everyone involved - it helps patients to better move on from what has happened and for health systems or providers to address the issues raised to ensure similar incidents don't occur again," she said.

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