HSE 'ignored' Halappanavar concerns about proposed inquiry
The HSE knew last Saturday that the husband of the late Savita Halappanavar was unhappy with aspects of the proposed inquiry into her death, including that it was to be private and operated by the HSE.
The HSE however “ignored” his concerns and pressed ahead with the inquiry as proposed, announcing it on Monday, according to his solicitor.
Gerard O’Donnell, acting for Praveen Halappanavar, said last night the appointment of three new experts to the inquiry, to replace employees of Galway University Hospital, would make “absolutely no difference” to his client’s decision not to co-operate with it. He said the way the HSE had treated Mr Halappanavar and his wife meant he had “absolutely no faith in it”.
The three clinicians from the Galway hospital where Ms Halappanavar died on October 28th were stood down from the inquiry on Tuesday following objections by Mr Halappanavar to their presence.
Savita Halappanavar died at Galway University Hospital one week after presenting with back pain at the maternity unit there. She had been 17 weeks pregnant and was found to be miscarrying. Her husband says she asked repeatedly for a termination of the pregnancy over a three-day period but this was refused as a foetal heartbeat was present and this was “a Catholic country”. She died of septicaemia and E.coli infection.
Mr O’Donnell told The Irish Times yesterday he had received the “draft” terms of reference for the inquiry last Friday evening and he got a call from Philip Crowley, HSE national director of quality and patient safety, on Saturday morning.
He said he told Mr Crowley he had not had an opportunity to read the draft terms fully but he had concerns about the fact it was to be run by the HSE and would not hold hearings with witnesses. He was concerned, he said, it would be just a “paper inquiry”.
“I said to him, ‘I’m flagging this now for you and I will write to you on Monday setting out my thoughts in writing’. I did that and sent off the letter. Then on Monday afternoon I heard they had gone ahead and established it anyway. That’s why we have no faith in the HSE. They just want to steamroll this,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the HSE said the primary concern the HSE had been aware of over the weekend was the participation of staff from the hospital where Ms Halappanavar died.*
She suggested the call for an inquiry was a new one on the part of Mr Halappanavar and his legal representative.
Mr O’Donnell rejected this, pointing out the participation of the Galway-based clinicians was not announced until Monday and so he could not have expressed a view on this over the weekend.*
Mr O’Donnell also said yesterday “crucial elements” of Ms Halappanavar’s medical notes had been withheld from Mr Halappanavar. He said Mr Halappanavar had requested his wife’s notes for the week she spent at the Galway hospital.
“To my layman’s eyes I could see crucial parts were missing,” said Mr O’Donnell. “I had a doctor friend look over them and he agreed there were crucial notes were missing.
“It is impossible to have faith in the HSE and this inquiry at this point,” he said.
He declined to detail the aspects of the notes that were missing.
A spokeswoman for the HSE said she was sure no notes were withheld for “spurious reasons”.
She said she was sure if Mr Halappanavar asked again, the missing parts of his wife’s file would be released.
*This article was edited on November 22nd 2012.