Galway staff removed from inquiry into Savita death
The three employees of Galway University Hospital have been asked to stand down from the inquiry into the death of Savita Halappanavar, the Dáil has been told.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said this afternoon the Government had decided earlier that Minister for Health Dr James Reilly would request the HSE not to have any consultant from the hospital involved in the investigation.
“That is not, in any way, impugning their integrity,’’ he added.
He said it was being done to have regard “for the traumatic effect on Savita’s husband and family and in the greater public interest at large’’.
Mr Kenny said it was accepted that the chairmanship of Prof Sir Sabaratnam Arulkumaran was unquestioned. Therefore, the investigation would be utterly independent of the hospital and would, hopefully, be able to ascertain the truth, the facts and circumstances surrounding the very tragic death.
“The three doctors will not be part of the investigation and therefore different personnel who are competent, who are experienced and who have no connection to Galway University Hospital will be appointed,” said Mr Kenny.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin said he was surprised by what appeared to be “an arm’s length’’ approach by Dr Reilly who was in charge of the HSE. The Minister, he added, should be taking charge of the matter himself and simply appoint an independent panel to investigate the death.
Mr Kenny said those involved in the investigation now were competent and experienced and had no connection with the hospital. It was an investigation under the HSE structure because the property, documentation and contracts were with the agency.
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said his party believed there should be an independent inquiry, requiring the confidence of the Irish public, international opinion, but, most particularly, the confidence of Savita’s husband and family.
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) said the Government had recognised that it was "highly inappropriate" that consultants from University Hospital Galway be included in the inquiry team.
"The fact remains, however, that this is still not the independent inquiry into the facts and circumstances of his wife’s death to which Praveen Halappanavar is entitled. Although headed by an external chair, this remains an internal HSE investigation into the conduct of persons employed by the HSE,” ICCL director Mr Mark Kelly said.
“The HSE is completely at liberty to conduct an internal review of procedures at University Hospital Galway, but an inquiry under the auspices of the HSE will not be sufficient to discharge the Government’s procedural obligation under the European Convention on Human Rights to carry out a fully-independent effective inquiry into the facts and circumstances of Savita Halappanavar’s death."
"Nor should it be the case, as some political figures have suggested, that the members of the HSE internal inquiry should be allowed to determine whether any further inquiries are required”, Mr Kelly added.
It emerged earlier today that the chairman of the Health Service Executive inquiry team investigating the death of Savita Halappanavar has sought a face to face meeting with her husband Praveen after his solicitor said he had no faith in the inquiry and would not cooperate with it.
Gerard O’Donnell said Praveen Halappanavar and his family were very concerned about the way his late wife was treated at University College Hospital Galway and “they want a full public inquiry to be held into the circumstances surrounding her death”.
Speaking on RTÉ Radio this morning, Mr O’Donnell said Mr Halappanavar would not consent to giving the HSE his late wife’s medical records.
A statement from the HSE this lunchtime said they were “taking the concerns of Mr Halappanavar extremely seriously” and were “currently examining the make up of the investigation team”.
Professor Sir Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, an independent expert in obstetrics and gynaecology from the UK, requested the meeting today to discuss Mr Halappanavar’s concerns.
Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn said this morning that the inquiry should be carried out by the people directly involved, along with outside experts.
“If a subsequent inquiry is necessary then that will be for people best placed to make that judgement to make that decision,” he said.
“In the first instance the people directly involved, along with outside experts, should look at what has happened.”
Fianna Fáil TD Michael McGrath said an independent inquiry was essential and that the appointment of three staff from University College Hospital Galway to the panel sent out the wrong signal.