Hospitals disclosed names of women who had abortions
Published 01/05/2015 | 02:30
A number of women whose pregnancy was terminated under new abortion legislation may have had some of their confidential patient information wrongly disclosed to Health Minister Leo Varadkar, it emerged yesterday.
The disclosure emerged in internal correspondence between chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan and HSE chief Tony O'Brien.
Dr Holohan said that some of the notification forms, which must be sent to the minister after a termination, were not filled out properly.
There was "missing or incorrect information" supplied including "serious breaches of patient confidentiality", Dr Holohan said.
These forms must contain information relating to the termination and the name of the person keeping the record, but the woman's identity and address should not be included.
HSE head of patient safety Dr Philip Crowley also wrote to hospitals and managers in October saying they should contact the minister about each termination "without disclosing the name of the woman", the correspondence obtained by the 'Medical Independent' revealed.
A report on the implementation of the legislation, including the number of terminations carried out, must be published by the minister by the end of June annually.
Terminations can take place where there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother, including suicide.
The legislation was commenced in January 2014 but the guidance for doctors and other staff involved was not published until last September.
Meanwhile, the 28-member steering group to advise on the development of a new national maternity strategy was announced yesterday.
The group, which is made up of obstetricians, midwives and patient group representatives, also includes Roisin Molloy, one of the parents whose baby died in Portlaoise Hospital.
Ms Molloy's son, Mark, died in 2012 after suffering a lack of oxygen after she was given a drug to speed up her labour. Ms Molloy and her husband Mark were instrumental in highlighting problems with safety in the maternity unit in Portlaoise.
The long-awaited investigation report by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) into standards of care at Portlaoise is to be published this month.
The steering group is to be chaired by Sylda Langford, former director general of the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and currently a member of the board of the Child and Family Agency.
The move follows increasing concern about the levels of care in maternity units across the country. Mr Varadkar insisted: "In Ireland, we have very good maternity care which is reflected in the fact that perinatal and maternal mortality rates are on a par with our international peers.
"Nonetheless, a number of high-profile cases in recent years have given rise to public concern about the safety and quality of maternity services."
He added that "for these reasons, I am appointing a steering group to prepare a new strategy. In doing so, I am implementing one of the recommendations of the Hiqa Report into the care of Ms Savita Halappanavar."
He said the group will hold its first meeting this month and is expected to conclude its work by the end of the year."
The focus will be on maximising patient safety, quality of care, clinical outcomes as well as the desirability of greater patient choice."