Latest report provides more evidence that change in law not needed to save Savita
Opinion: Hiqa identified general lack of ‘basic, fundamental care’
Savita Halappanavar: Professor John Bonnar’s view that if she had received proper care her baby could have been delivered by the Tuesday has been vindicated.
It is hard not to be cynical about the way in which the narrative about Savita Halappanavar has changed, given that abortion legislation has been safely passed. Now, a great deal of the commentary is focusing on failures within the hospital.
The report by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) is repeating what we have heard from the coroner’s report onwards – symptoms were missed, communications breakdowns happened, and life-saving systems and protocols were either not in place or not implemented.
Yet before legislation was passed, with each successive report the commentary shifted attention back to the law, and away from the multiple failures described by people such as Dr Susan Knowles as far back as the coroner’s inquiry.
One of the Republic’s foremost experts in infections affecting pregnant women and newborn babies, she was very critical of the failure to follow up blood samples, or to have the proper regime of antibiotics in place.
It is also extraordinary that the tragic story of Tania McCabe has re-emerged into public discussion, although virtually no reference was made to it at the time of Savita’s death.
This is inexplicable, given the parallels – there was a failure to deal properly
with ruptured membranes, and a young mother died of sepsis. Her baby son,
Zach, also died.
At the time of Ms McCabe’s death, it was recognised as a preventable tragedy, but there were no marches demanding changes in the abortion law.
Tragically, though, the recommendations made at the time, designed to
save women’s lives and, where possible, the lives of their babies, were not implemented nationally.
In the Hiqa report on Savita’s case, it says that six out of 19 maternity units had no comment on the recommendations made after Ms McCabe’s death or had no evidence they were being implemented.
No wonder her family are “saddened and disappointed”. As a family, the McCabes have spearheaded fundraising for incubators. The least they might have expected would be that life-saving recommendations be implemented.
Nothing heals the hurt of losing your wife and child, but the knowledge that the tragic death might result in better outcomes for others might be some small comfort.
However, there are some people who still feel that the law was the primary problem. While the acknowledge other problems, they argue that these were not the key factors in Savita’s death.
Reinforcing the message
Dr Peter Boylan was interviewed about the Hiqa report on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland this week. He did a sterling job reinforcing the message found in the report that the ratio of obstetricians to pregnant women is far too low, but said in relation to University Hospital Galway that “to turn the hospital upside down on the basis of a single catastrophe would be a mistake.”