Home birth midwife Philomena Canning reinstated by HSE

Solicitors for HSE say ‘necessary foundation’ no longer exists for temporary suspension

Independent midwife Philomena Canning (centre) has been reinstated by the Health Service Executive to assist in home births. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times.

Independent midwife Philomena Canning (centre) has been reinstated by the Health Service Executive to assist in home births. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times.

 

Independent midwife Philomena Canning has been reinstated by the Health Service Executive to assist in home births.

The HSE withdrew Ms Canning’s professional indemnity to practise last year, following what they described as two serious incidents.

However, the HSE’s solicitor Arthur Cox wrote to lawyers for Ms Canning on Wednesday to say “the necessary foundation no longer existing for the continuation of the temporary suspension of your client’s clinical indemnity insurance and the temporary suspension is no longer in the public interest”.

“We are instructed that your client’s clinical indemnity insurance, as provided for under the memorandum of understanding agreed between the parties on 30 April 2014, will be reinstated immediately and same has been confirmed by the State Claims Agency, ” according to the letter to the midwife’s solicitor Patrick Cunningham, seen by The Irish Times.

The case was the subject of High Court proceedings last year when Ms Canning made a failed bid to have the withdrawal of her professional indemnity reversed.

The HSE argued that while no findings of wrongdoing had been made against Ms Canning, it had to act in the interests of public health until the investigation into the incidents had been concluded.

Ms Canning, who argued that her practice had effectively been closed down, said she did not accept the standard of care she provided fell below the required levels.

A Supreme Court appeal by Ms Canning was due to be heard on Friday, but the HSE now plans to tell the court this is moot because her indemnity has been reinstated.

The HSE’s actions angered many involved in home birth, including 29 women who have Ms Canning as their home birth midwife. Supporters set up a campaign group and presented a petition to Dáil Éireann with 3,500 signatures.

Ms Canning said she was very pleased to be reinstated to practice by the HSE after being suspended “on no grounds”.

“These have been the most challenging months of my life, as a single midwife battling for my rights and reputation against the power and might of the HSE,” she said.

“My suspension has had untold consequences for all 29 of my clients, and it is this that has given me the greatest heartache, particularly the two women unnecessarily placed at the centre of the HSE’s so-called investigation into my practice.”

She added: “This is a good day for the rights of Irish women to choice in childbirth and the midwifery profession committed to safeguarding them and their babies - but it is only the beginning. We have a long way to go to ensure that the right to a home birth is made lawful in Ireland, and that a situation such as this can not happen again. And we will not stop until the HSE is made accountable for my unfounded suspension, with all its effects. But, for today, we celebrate.”

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the HSE said that in this case: “The HSE took the precautionary step of a temporary suspension based on information available at the time and set up two reviews, which remain ongoing, in order to elicit further detailed information on these important matters.

“New information has recently come to light from expert reports and following its consideration, the HSE has now ceased the temporary suspension of Ms Canning’s clinical indemnity insurance . . . This new information is being acted upon swiftly in order to facilitate the return Ms Canning to clinical practice.”