Midwifery experts recruited post-Savita have resigned

Departures linked in part to concerns over pace of reform in maternity services

Two senior experts in midwifery recruited to improve maternity services in the west after the death of Savita Halappanavar have resigned only two years after taking up the jobs.

Group director of midwifery Dawn Johnston is leaving her post with Saolta University Hospital Group, two years after coming from Britain's National Health Service to take up the position.

Professor of midwifery Declan Devane left earlier this year, two years into a five-year, half-time secondment from NUI Galway designed to help roll out improvements in maternity services that were recommended in reports into Ms Halappanavar's death.

Next Friday marks the fourth anniversary of her death in University Hospital Galway.


Sudden sepsis

The Indian dentist (31) was miscarrying when admitted to the maternity unit and died a week later after staff failed to spot the sudden onset of sepsis on time. The case attracted international attention after Savita and her husband asked for, but were refused, a termination.

Both Prof Devane and Ms Johnston were members of the group that designed the national maternity strategy, published this year.

Ms Johnston was the first and only group director of midwifery in the State and Prof Devane’s role was also unique. Neither would comment this weekend but their departure has been linked in part to concerns over the pace of reform in maternity services.

Departures unconnected

A spokesman for the hospital group said the two departures were unconnected and pointed out that Prof Devane left last January. Directors of midwifery were being appointed to all Saolta maternity hospitals and structures were being “beefed up”, he added.

Ms Halappanavar’s death prompted a raft of recommendations in subsequent reports and both the HSE and Saolta say most of the improvements suggested have been made.

The resignation of the two senior Saolta staff has raised concerns in the Department of Health, which is charged with implementing a new 10-year national maternity strategy.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

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