Hospital early warning system could have saved Savita Halappanavar, says Reilly

Proper handwashing is key to combating potentially deadly MRSA bug

Candles are lit by the public at the vigil at Eyre Square in Galway city  to mark the first anniversary of the death of Savita Halappanavar. Dr Reilly said the new guidelines would not have saved Ms Halappanavar as she did not get an MRSA-based infection, but her death illustrated the importance of an early-warning system for patient care and proper protocols . Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

Candles are lit by the public at the vigil at Eyre Square in Galway city to mark the first anniversary of the death of Savita Halappanavar. Dr Reilly said the new guidelines would not have saved Ms Halappanavar as she did not get an MRSA-based infection, but her death illustrated the importance of an early-warning system for patient care and proper protocols . Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

Thu, Dec 12, 2013, 01:00


The death of Savita Halappanavar has brought into “sharp focus” the need for uniformity across the hospital system in dealing with infections, Minister for Health Dr James Reilly has said.

Her death from a form of septicaemia in University Hospital Galway could have been prevented at many stages. “There were so many things that went wrong and so many points of action that could have resulted in a different outcome,” he said.

The Minister was launching the second set of national clinical guidelines for the prevention and control of methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in healthcare settings.

Dr Reilly said the new guidelines would not have saved Ms Halappanavar as she did not get an MRSA-based infection, but her death illustrated the importance of an early-warning system for patient care and proper protocols .

There are 53 practical recommendations on prevention and control measures for MRSA, but Prof Hilary Humphreys, chairman of the National Clinical Effectiveness Committee, said the most important was hygiene.


Handwashing vital
He said handwashing needed to become an “instinctive and natural part of patient care. “I would use the analogy with road safety where few people would think about turning on the ignition in a car without putting your seat belt on first. That’s where we need to go with hand hygiene”.

Prof Humphreys said 5-10 per cent of hospital patients got an infection and in some cases this could lead to death, though many would already be very sick. Hospitals and care settings will be monitored by the Health Information and Quality Authority to see if they comply with the guidelines. Though MRSA levels are down 50 per cent since 2006, the Minister said Ireland had a “long way to go” to get to the average European level.

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