Thursday 19 October 2017

Savita medics to be interviewed over coming days

Sir Sabaratnam Arulkumaran

Ed Carty and Lyndsey Telford

Medics involved in the care of a pregnant Indian woman who died after suffering a miscarriage will be interviewed over the next three days, health chiefs have revealed.

A seven-strong team, headed by professor of obstetrics and gynaecology Sir Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, will examine case notes and medical guidelines to establish whether she received the best possible care.

Savita Halappanavar, 31, died on October 28 after contracting septicaemia. Her husband has claimed she was denied an abortion as she miscarried 17 weeks into her pregnancy.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) said no overall timeframe has been set for the completion of a report, which will be sent to HSE national director of quality and patient safety Philip Crowley.

"We will obviously interview all the members of the local team who were involved in the care and clearly analyse every step of Mrs Halappanavar's care to ensure that we uncover the root causes of her untimely death," Dr Crowley said.

"They will be attempting to interview as many people as possible in the next three days."

The review panel is also communicating with the dead woman's husband, Praveen Halappanavar, through his solicitor.

He has welcomed the early stages of the review.

Details of the review were revealed as the Government prepares to face down opposition efforts to steamroll it into introducing legislation to legalise abortion in limited circumstances on medical grounds, as set out in the 1992 X case.

Dr James Reilly , Health Minister, has said the Cabinet will discuss plans to reform abortion law next week.

The HSE would not reveal the full terms of reference for the investigation because it had committed to sharing them with Mr Halappanavar.

Mr Halappanavar claims his wife was denied an abortion by staff at Galway University Hospital on medical grounds because a foetal heartbeat was present.

UK-based consultant Sir Arulkumaran serves as head of obstetrics and gynaecology at St George's University of London. He is a lead researcher in foetal monitoring, intrapartum care, high-risk pregnancy, obstetric litigation and safety in maternity care.

The chairman insisted he would have plenty of opportunity to work with the team directly, despite being based in London.

"The first three days will give us sufficient information for the panel to communicate electronically," Sir Arulkumaran said.

"And I will be prepared to come and meet with the panel."

Dr Crowley said while Sir Arulkumaran's team hopes to conduct the bulk of its interviews this week, much work must still be done after that.

"There will be work to examine local guidelines, local policies, international guidelines, international policies and to ensure whether the best practices have been followed or not in this case," he said.

The HSE will share the findings of its investigation immediately with the dead woman's family.

Dr Crowley said it has made it clear to Mr Halappanavar's solicitor that it will engage with him when he wishes and when he is available to do so.

"We're very aware of the considerable level of the public interest in this case," Dr Crowley said.

"We will conduct the investigation as quickly as possible, but thoroughly."

The investigation will involve the same methodologies of all reviews of sudden maternal deaths, including the examination of medics' case notes, and local and international medical guidelines and benchmarks.

Other members of the HSE independent review team are: Cora McCaughan, HSE national incident management team; Cathriona Molloy, service user advocate, Patient Focus; Professor John Morrison, consultant in obstetrics and gynaecology, Galway University Hospital; Geraldine Keohane, director of midwifery, Cork University Hospital; Catherine Fleming, consultant in infectious diseases at Galway University Hospital; and Brian Harte, consultant in anaesthetics at Galway University Hospital.

Ms Molloy is the only patient-focused member of the investigative team.

She said it was important she served on the panel to ensure the voice of the patient was represented in such reviews.

"We've dealt with a lot of people who have had a bad experience within the health care system," she said.

"I think it's important the family get the answers they need at this sad time."

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