Reilly not in favour of public inquiry
Minister for Health James Reilly has expressed opposition to a public inquiry into the death of Savita Halappanavar.
Dr Reilly said a public inquiry would take longer to carry out than the private inquiry currently proposed and the answers to what happened would be “an awful lot” slower to come out.
“We must let the HSE get on with its business as quickly as possible,” he told the Oireachtas Committee on Health yesterday.
Changes to the composition of the inquiry team, which saw the three members from Galway University Hospital step down, allowed for “a sense of independence” in the investigation, he claimed.
Dr Reilly said he had a “duty of care” to all women in the country to expedite the investigation “so we can be sure there aren’t any unsafe practices” in the hospital.
“We need to be independent and we must also be seen to be independent.”
Although the HSE has said it expects the inquiry to take three months to complete, Dr Reilly said he hoped that the group’s work would be completed “a lot quicker”.
The Minister acknowledged that Ms Halappanavar’s family had been through a very difficult traumatic time. “I want to accommodate their wishes and desires as far as I can.”
HSE director designate Tony O’Brien said that maternal mortality, while rare, was a factor in the Irish health service and for this reason protocols were in place to deal with it.
In a typical case, the review was carried out by the institution in which the death occurred. The inclusion of staff from the institution in a review was not therefore “unusual or aberrant”.
He said the Galway consultants were included in the group on the request of the chairman, Prof Sir Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, who wanted people with significant knowledge of the processes in the hospital to be part of the review. These three consultants had now stepped down by mutual consent after discussions with the chairman.
Mr O’Brien said the HSE was very anxious to get to the bottom of what happened, but it needed the full co-operation of the family. It had had a number of points of contact with Mr Halappanavar’s lawyers and had sought direct contact with him, but this had not proved possible so far. The chairman has now sought a direct meeting with Mr Halappanavar.
Mr O’Brien said he had an absolute obligation to inquire into what happened, especially in light of the broader allegations being made.
“I must make arrangements for this to proceed. The team is currently in Galway. I hope that he will come to the view that the best course of action is for him to make himself available to the chairman so we can get to the bottom of what happened.” He said the HSE would have to consider how best to proceed in the event that this did not happen.