HSE apologises to Sally Rowlette’s family for her ‘tragic death’

Second apology comes two weeks after public apology was issued to them through PR firm and media

The family of Sally Rowlette, who died after giving birth at Sligo Regional Hospital last year, have received an apology from the HSE – almost two weeks after a public apology was issued to them through the media.

The family's solicitor welcomed the "belated" apology and confirmed that a formal complaint will be made to both the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) and the Medical Council about the events surrounding Ms Rowlette's death. She died following the birth of her fourth child at the hospital in February 2013.

A jury returned a verdict of “medical misadventure” following a three-day inquest earlier this month.

Ms Rowlette's husband Seán said he had learned through Facebook about the HSE's apology, issued through a public relations company following the inquest. Mr Rowlette said he was initially annoyed that the apology was made through the media but he was glad to receive it yesterday. "It is nice to have got it before Christmas," he added.

The family's solicitor Damien Tansey said the immediate and extended family who were hurt by the way the initial apology had been communicated welcomed this "belated acknowledgment" by the HSE of its responsibility for Ms Rowlette's tragic and untimely death.

With the family due to make a formal complaint to Hiqa and the Medical Council, the HSE’s apology would make that process “less arduous and less difficult”, he added. Mr Tansey said the great tragedy was that Ms Rowlette’s death was “entirely avoidable”.

“The idea that the HSE had a doctor working as a consultant who ups and leaves after a tragedy like this and cannot be traced does not say much for their vetting procedures,” Mr Tansey added.

The apology received by his office was issued by Hegarty & Armstrong, solicitors for the HSE, who pointed out that they had no prior knowledge of the public apology issued to the family on December 4th. “We have no hesitation in saying that the manner in which the apology was tendered was unintentionally inappropriate,” the solicitors stated.

They added that “on reflection and with the benefit of hindsight”, the apology should have been communicated in the first instance to Mr Rowlette, his family and his wife’s family, the Goldens. “We wish on behalf of the HSE to tender our apologies to all of the aforesaid for the inappropriateness of the manner in which the apology was communicated,” they added.

The solicitors also told the family that they had been instructed to confirm the HSE’s apologies “for the events related to the care of the late Sally Rowlette that contributed to her tragic death in the care of Sligo Regional Hospital”.

Marese McDonagh

Marese McDonagh

Marese McDonagh, a contributor to The Irish Times, reports from the northwest of Ireland