‘Little progress’ in maternity sector despite Halappanavar

Report by Sam Coulter Smith criticises failure of HSE to implement recommendations

The master of the Rotunda Hospital, Dr Sam Coulter Smith, has criticised inaction over implementing the recommendations of reports into the death of Savita Halappanavar

more than two years ago.

Dr Coulter Smith blamed inaction in relation to these and previous reports on maternity services for significant under-resourcing in the area.

"Despite representations to the HSE and to the Department of Health, little has been done in relation to making any progress in improving infrastructure, services or staffing levels in the maternity sector," he said, writing in the clinical report for 2013.



“Our midwife to patient ratio is too low and we require more consultants to staff our maternity units. These issues are compounded by increasing difficulty in attracting sufficient numbers of good junior staff into the specialty.”

The Saolta hospital group, which includes University Hospital Galway where Ms Halappanavar died, is due to publish a progress report on implementing recommendations made on foot of her death.

There were three maternal deaths in the hospital in 2013, compared to two in 2012 and three in 2011. The deaths of a 37-year-old and a 34-year-old were attributed to pulmonary embolism while a coroner’s report is awaited in the case of a 39-year-old woman who died after collapsing in another hospital following a “silent miscarriage”.


Last year 8,841 babies were delivered in the hospital, down from 9,041 the previous year; this included 181 sets of twins and eight triplets. Seventy-three per cent of mothers were Irish, 18 per cent came from other EU states and 9 per cent were from outside


. The Caesarean section rate increased from 29 per cent to 31 per cent.

Dr Coulter Smith said it was unacceptable that the hospital had to transfer 10 of its sickest patients by ambulance to the high dependency unit of the Mater hospital. This was because it was not co-located with an adult hospital and didn’t have immediate access to intensive care facilities.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is a former heath editor of The Irish Times.