How much medical negligence compensation is paid out in the ACT?

Published 24 Jul 2017

Author: Gerard Malouf

Medical negligence can have a significant impact on patients, leaving them with serious injuries, illnesses and disabilities that affect their quality of life.

The majority of medical practitioners do an excellent job. Yet mistakes happen, and when medical practitioners breach their duty of care, the consequences can be disastrous.

But how often are ACT professionals negligent? And how much compensation can patients expect to receive?

Medical negligence in the ACT

Unfortunately, the latest official government data examining medical negligence in Australia is a few years old. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare last released a report into medical indemnity claims at public and private sector hospitals in 2014, which covered the 2012-13 financial year.

The study showed that 513 new medical negligence claims were opened in public hospitals across Australia (excluding Western Australia) between July 1 2012 and June 30 2013. A total of 165 of these were reported in Tasmania, South Australia, the Northern Territory and the ACT, but a more detailed breakdown isn’t provided.

The Canberra Times reported that medical negligence payouts increased 500 per cent at Canberra Hospital in the three years to August 2013. The public hospital, which is the biggest in the territory, was forced to pay $10.5 million to patients injured while under its care in the 2012-13 financial year.

This figure was notably higher than both the $7.5 million paid in the previous financial year and the $1.6 million offered in 2010-11. According to the Canberra Times, the huge payout spike in 2012-13 was due to a few large cases involving potentially lifelong injuries, as well as a flurry of delayed claims being rushed through the courts.

How much compensation is available?

Compensation amounts vary from case to case depending on the seriousness of the injuries suffered and the amount of care and treatment the patient will need going forward.

For example, Canberra Hospital paid out $7.5 million in 2014 after the courts ruled the facility’s negligence caused a young boy’s cerebral palsy and other disabilities.

Earlier this year, the hospital settled a claim for $12 million after a woman had a stroke, leaving her with quadriplegia – a type of paralysis. The plaintiff had been taking a drug to help with migraines, but it was known to cause circulatory problems unless frequent medication breaks were taken.

Her medical practitioners told her the drug holidays were no longer necessary, eventually leading to her stroke and catastrophic lifelong injuries.