Medical, surgical procedures most common reason for medical indemnity claims

Over one third (34%) of all medical indemnity claims in the public sector arose as a result of a possible error or negligence in medical or surgical procedures.

These claims included failure to perform a procedure, having the wrong procedure performed, having the wrong body site operated on or treated, post-operative complications and failure of a procedure.

These finding were released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) in a new report, Medical indemnity national collection (public sector): 2004-2005.

The report, the third of its kind by the AIHW, examines nearly 6,500 current, potential and finalised claims in the public sector between 1 July 2004 and 30 June 2005.

'Other less common, but still significant, claims related to diagnosis (21%) and treatment (15%),' said AIHW spokesperson Dr Samantha Bricknell.

'The three specialty areas with the greatest number of claims were obstetrics (18%), accident and emergency (15%) and general surgery (11%)', she said.

Of all the claims examined, 58% related to adults, 19% to children and 10% to babies less than one year of age. Fifty six per cent of claims related to females.

Dr Bricknell said it was important to note that 'the report represents a profile of medical indemnity claims data only - fault or negligence on the part of the health care provider is not necessarily established.'

During 2004-05 1,680 claims were finalised, of which two thirds were for claims less than $100,000. In 27 cases payments exceeded $500,000.

The average length of time it took to close a claim was 26 months, and court decisions were involved in 4% of finalised claims.

Now in its fourth year, the Medical Indemnity National Collection currently represents 85% of all claims made in the public sector.

'This coverage is expected to improve again next year giving us an even clearer picture of medical claims in Australia,' said Dr Bricknell.

29 June 2006

Further information: Dr Samantha Bricknell, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1138

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. 61 2 6244 1032.