Thawley inquiry to probe hospital response
The readiness of the National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street to respond to major emergencies when surgery is needed will be probed in an inquiry into the death of Malak Thawley.
The case involved the death of Ms Thawley (35) at the maternity hospital in May 2016 during an emergency operation for an ectopic pregnancy.
It will be investigated by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa).
The terms of reference of the inquiry, which were published yesterday, will look at:
- The implementation of early-warning systems for the clinical management and recognition of a deteriorating patient;
- Practice of surgery outside of core working hours;
- The seniority of on-site clinical staff outside of core working hours;
- The on-call arrangements for senior staff outside of core working hours;
- The readiness of the hospital to respond to major emergencies which require surgical intervention.
The inquiry, ordered by Health Minister Simon Harris, follows an appeal for an external probe into Ms Thawley's death by her husband Alan.
She died after a major blood vessel was accidentally pierced during the surgery.
The National Maternity Hospital has been granted a judicial review challenging the choice of Hiqa to carry out the inquiry.
It said it did not object to an outside probe, but argued the Hiqa Section 9 investigation review might undermine clinical and public confidence, and could be counter-productive in its effect on national maternity services outcomes to patients.
Hiqa said the investigation would also take into account issues such as workforce, diagnostic and laboratory availability outside of core working hours. However, the inquiry is unlikely to proceed before the judicial review is heard in March.
The hospital has apologised to Ms Thawley's family and agreed a compensation settlement in the High Court recently.
A number of changes have been made to ensure more safeguards at the hospital following the recommendations of an internal inquiry and an inquest into the death of Ms Thawley.
Holles Street Master Dr Rhona Mahony, who was speaking at the hospital's charter day, reiterated her call for hospitals to have consultants on site around the clock. This would replace the current system that sees consultants on call out of hours.
"The cumbersome and tardy process of appointing medical consultants in Ireland is unhelpful," she said. She expressed concern at the deficit of consultant posts in Ireland.
Meanwhile, Patient Focus welcomed the Hiqa terms of reference. "We have also been involved with a number of Hiqa investigations and know they drive improvements in the care provided to patients, not just in the hospital or unit examined but throughout the entire system," it said in a statement.