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Healthcare Workers Make Sexual Harassment Against Patients: RTE Report

Posted: November 28th, 2017

Five staff members in the State healthcare system took sexual harassment allegations over the last few years, claiming they were sexually assaulted by service users, according to a report published by RTE in November 2017.

The State Claims Agency has not made public actual details about where the supposed abuse happened in these or any other cases.

The claims relate to incidents that took place between 2012 and 2016 and make up almost half of all sexual harassment claims being taken care by the State Claims Agency on behalf of the State.

The State Claims Agency had, until recently, refused to release any information on these allegations.

There have been appeals from the Fianna Fail political party and the Oireachtas Justice Committee for the State Claims Agency to make available a detailed breakdown of all sexual harassment claims made against separate public sector bodies. This comes after the initial refusal by the State Claims Agency to publish such a breakdown, by employer and sector, of all the sexual harassment allegations which it operates for the State.

Additionally, in November The Oireachtas Justice and Equality Committee wrote to Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan asking him to get behind a request for the data to be released to the public. As a result of this the State Claims Agency made available a small amount of information on the amount of claims. However, it did not reveal where the claims came from.

In a statement issued it was revealed that the State Claims Agency has managed 11 claims of sexual harassment in the workplace, which it said was “referable to three State Authorities, inclusive of all Delegated Healthcare Agencies, in the years 2012 to 2016”.

It also revealed that in six of the cases they’ve handled the alleged assailant and victim are both staff members. In the other five cases they said the person believed responsible for the assault was a service user in the healthcare area and the victim was a member of staff.

Compensation Claims Against the State Up by Almost a Fifth

Posted: October 21st, 2017

A recent report issued by the State Claims Agency has shown that there was a rise in the cost of compensation claims taken against the State, bringing the overall cost of these compensation actions to almost €2.2 billion last year.

This is equivalent to 22% increase on the 2016 figures according to the agency responsible for legal actions taken against the State.  The total number of cases encountered throughout 2016 was 8,900 up to the end of the year, up from 6,000 in 2015.

Main Factors Behind the Increase in Compensation Paid Out by the State

  1. The Department of Education settled/paid out legal compensation claims for an estimated €50 million.
  2. €1.9 billion of the €2.2 billion overall State compensation paid out was by Tusla and the Health Service Executive (HSE).
  3. Any individual who is successful in a legal action is now entitled to a higher pay out following a Supreme Court ruling to make up for falling returns on the cash awarded.
  4. The Department of Justice and Defence paid out State compensation claims worth around €175 million compared to €27 million of compensation claims for the Department of Health.

The State Claims Agency, part of the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA), was established to address the continual increases in compensation actions being made against the State.

Séamus McCarthy Comptroller and Auditor General for the NTMA commented on the increase of 22% saying “The number of claims under management has increased significantly since 2011”.

Social Worker Injured at Work Receives Compensation

Posted: February 20th, 2016

A man who broke his knee whilst running after a child that was in his care has received a settlement for compensation after a court hearing resolved the case.

The accident occurred in June 2009, when Joseph Kavanagh, aged fifty-four from Enfield in Co. Meath was helping young people with behavioural problems at a Special Care Residential Unit. Asked to accompany one of the youths during a family visit, the teenager – who has remained anonymous throughout the case – became emotionally upset and ran away from Mr Kavanagh.

Mr Kavanagh followed the teenager, but twisted his knee badly as he did so. This caused him to fall, cracking his knee on the road. X-rays performed on Mr Kavanagh in hospital confirmed that the fall had caused him to break his knee, and ever since Mr Kavanagh has complained of continued pain that infringes upon his daily life. He also still has a four centimetre scar on the knee from the fall.

Joseph sough legal counsel and proceeded to make a claim for compensation against the Health Service Executive, HSE, who employed him to work in the facility. Mr Kavanagh claimed that there was no risk assessment carried out before the visit, given that there had been a previous agitation. The care worker claimed that, had such an assessment been carried out, it would have been evident that another carer at the centre should have accompanied his charge on the visit.
His employers denied any liability for the accident, and the claim proceeded to the Circuit Civil Court. Judge Francis Comerford oversaw proceedings, though the HSE did not have a chance to present their defence as Judge Comerford had been informed of a settlement that had been agreed upon and as such, the claim was resolved.

Exact details were not released, though it is believed that the liability was split 50/50 between Mr Kavanagh and his employer. Judge Comerford closed the case after awarding Mr Kavanagh his legal costs.

Big Jump in Workplace Injury Compensation Settlements

Posted: April 3rd, 2015

The Injuries Board Annual Review for 2014 has revealed a substantial increase in the average value of workplace injury compensation settlements.

Although the Injuries Board Annual Review for 2014 indicated a general stabilisation in the number of workplace injury claims, the average value of workplace injury settlements increased by almost 12% from €28,886 in 2013 to €32,134 in 2014.

One exceptional employer liability claim – which resulted in an assessment of €972,898 – was partially responsible for increasing the average value of workplace injury compensation settlements, which over the course of the year totalled €20.1 million.

The Injuries Board figures do not account for any workplace injury compensation settlements that were resolved by negotiation prior to the Injuries Board completing its assessment, or any workplace injury claims in which liability was contested and the claim had to be resolved in court.

31,576 applications for assessment were received by the Injuries Board last year (including motor liability and public liability claims) and, after the Injuries Board had completed its assessments, 12,420 settlements were accepted (39%).

The acceptance rate is significantly higher than the previous year due to a large volume of applications being received towards the end of 2013 which were only resolved last year. Nonetheless, Patricia Byron – the Chief Executive of the Injuries Board was satisfied with the performance of her organisation over 2014. She said:

“While the volume of new claims stabilized last year, the increase in the number of awards made by the Board is a clear indication that more respondents, typically insurers, are opting to engage with our low cost claims resolution service and recognize the real value of avoiding unnecessary and costly litigation where uncontested claims are concerned”.

Ms Byron continued: “2014 was an important year for us as we marked a decade in operation. As a result of our journey, personal injury compensation is now delivered in 7 months and at a processing cost of 6.7%, compared to almost 3 years and a cost of 58% for litigated claims. With over €1 billion in savings delivered to date and a ten year track record behind us, the benefits of non-adversarial claims resolution are unequivocal.”

Woman Awarded Compensation for a Black Eye Injury

Posted: December 10th, 2013

A woman has been awarded compensation for a black eye injury that was suffered when she volunteered to participate in a case study for an acupuncture clinical training treatment.

Bernadette Poleon (45) from Dunboyne in County Meath was a student at the University College Dublin when, in April 2010, she volunteered to take part in a clinical acupuncture training course that was being held at the Irish Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Ranelagh, Dublin.

During the training course, a student of acupuncture inserted a needle below each of Bernadette´s eyes – the needle under the right eye later being adjusted by the course supervisor – and, later that day, Bernadette´s left eye became puffy. Within two days the eye was yellow and black and looked as though Bernadette had suffered a black eye injury.

The skin around the eye remained puffy and tender for only several days, but the black bruising did not disappear entirely for seven weeks. Although Bernadette´s eye injury subsequently made a full recovery, she also developed a sinus problem for which she is receiving treatment from her GP.

Bernadette made a claim for compensation for a black eye injury against the owners of the Institute – Bellfields Consultants Ltd – which the defendants contested. However, at the Circuit Civil Court, Judge Jacqueline Linnane was told that liability had been accepted, and the case was before her for the assessment of damages only.

After hearing how the injury had occurred, and the embarrassment it had caused Bernadette, Judge Linnane awarded Bernadette €6,000 compensation for a black eye injury and costs at District Court level.

Scottish Workplace Injury Claims Increase by 24 Percent

Posted: November 5th, 2012

Figures published by the Department of Work and Pensions compensation recovery unit have indicated that workplace injury claims in Scotland increased by almost a quarter in the twelve months to March 2012.

6,191 personal injury compensation claims were recorded by the Department of Work and Pensions during the year, as opposed to 4,955 throughout the previous twelve months and in spite of workplace accidents in Scotland reported to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) declining by almost 7 percent in the same period.

The percentage increase in workplace injury compensation claims in Scotland is six times that recorded in England and Wales and, according to a leading Scottish solicitor, could increase still further. Fear of losing their job and not getting another one – particularly in the current economic climate – may have held workers back from making compensation claims in the past he claimed but “given the preponderance of employment in agriculture and construction, plus the significant rates of accidents in this country, we would expect a lot more claims.”

Commenting on the increase of almost 50 percent in workplace deaths in Scotland, Alistair McNab – HSE head of operations in Scotland – stated: “While there has been a welcome drop in injury and ill-health in Scotland, the increase in workplace deaths proves that there is no room for complacency. It is important that efforts are concentrated on managing the risks that lead to serious harm in workplaces throughout Scotland. It is unacceptable that Scottish workers are still failing to come home from work safe”.

There are two significant factors which should be considered when comparing the number of injuries reported to the HSE against the number of workplace injury claims in Scotland. First, as unemployment continues to increasse in Scotland, the percentage decrease in workplace accidents in Scotland is much lower if measured in injuries per 100 employees.

Secondly, only reportable injuries under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) are registered by the HSE. If an employer does not inform the HSE of an incident – or it does not qualify under RIDDOR regulations – that accident and injury is not considered in the annual report.

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