Husband criticises Savita care staff review

Praveen Halappanavar highlights lack of independent role in disciplinary process

Praveen Halappanavar says there should be an external component to the review. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Praveen Halappanavar says there should be an external component to the review. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons


Savita Halappanavar’s husband, Praveen, has criticised the lack of outside independent involvement in the disciplinary process announced for staff involved in her care.

The actions of all staff members in University Hospital Galway who were involved in Ms Halappanavar’s care are to be reviewed taking account of the coroner’s inquest and the Health Service Executive (HSE) and Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) investigations into her death last October.

Appropriate action would be taken in the light of these proceedings, Bill Maher, chief executive of the West/North West Hospital group, said yesterday in a statement released after a five-hour meeting of the group board on Thursday evening.

“I believe that in many instances there will be no case to answer. As part of the disciplinary process, if we believe it appropriate we will refer individuals to the Irish Medical Council and the Nursing and Midwifery Board.”

However, Gerard O’Donnell, solicitor for Mr Halappanavar, said last night his client believed there should be an external, independent component to the disciplinary process, which is to be led by Mr Maher.

He said he welcomed the fact that the HSE was moving towards “some element of accountability” and he recognised the people were entitled to due process.

Mr Maher’s statement revealed that the Medical Council and the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland have “already advanced to preliminary hearings in some instances”. He promised full co-operation with the two regulatory bodies and promised to refer the inquest transcripts and findings, and the HSE and Hiqa reports, to them “to help restore public confidence”.

However, Mr O’Donnell said it was news to him that the regulatory bodies were already holding preliminary hearings and he would be writing to them to ascertain the nature of these proceedings.

The Medical Council said that as a matter of policy it never confirms whether it had received or was investigating individual complaints. Details of complaints were made available to the public only if an inquiry was held in public.

Last week’s Hiqa report into Ms Halappanavar’s death, after she was admitted to University Hospital Galway while 17 weeks pregnant and miscarrying, identified 13 “missed opportunities” which, had they been identified and acted upon by the hospital, “may potentially have resulted in a different outcome for her”.

Mr Maher said considerable progress had been made in implementing the recommendations from the HSE investigation and the inquest.

These include the implementation of early-warning scoring systems; the education of all staff in the recognition, monitoring and management of sepsis and septic shock; the introduction of a new, multidisciplinary team- based training programme in the management of obstetric emergencies, including sepsis; the completion of specialist bereavement counselling training for key staff in the maternity unit; and improved communications procedures for doctors’ handovers.

He said these recommendations were being implemented in all hospitals across the group and not just in UHG.