Wednesday 17 January 2018

Now Savita doctor faces quiz on new complaint

Mayor reports Astbury to Medical Council in bid to 'restore confidence'

Dr Katherine Astbury
Dr Katherine Astbury
Councillor Padraig Conneely, consultant obstetrician Katherine Astbury

THE consultant obstetrician responsible for the care of Savita Halappanavar has been reported to the Medical Council by the mayor of Galway.

Fine Gael councillor Padraig Conneely lodged a complaint against Dr Katherine Astbury to the doctor's regulatory body within the past fortnight, the Sunday Independent has learnt.

Mr Conneely said he made the complaint as a public representative after reading the report from the health watchdog Hiqa, which said responsibility for Savita's care rested with the consultant obstetrician.

The Medical Council will ultimately consider whether the complaint against Dr Astbury should be heard by its fitness-to-practise committee.

The Hiqa inquiry was the third into the death of the 31-year-old dentist from blood poisoning at University Hospital Galway last year and went further than the others in its findings.

Savita was admitted to hospital when she was 17 weeks pregnant and suffering a miscarriage but died days later after developing an infection.

The health watchdog identified 13 "missed opportunities" for intervention that could have altered the outcome for her. Savita's medical team was criticised for failing to ensure she got the right care at the right time. But the health watchdog found that "ultimate responsibility" rested with her consultant, whom it did not name.

Mr Conneely, a longstanding Galway councillor who is also chairman of the local HSE's regional health forum in the West, has repeatedly called for accountability for Savita's death.

After the Hiqa report was published, he called for Dr Astbury and the clinical director of the hospital to be "stood down".

He told the Sunday Independent this weekend that he sat through six days of evidence at the inquest into Savita's death and read the report of the HSE's clinical review team and the Hiqa report which was published earlier this month.

"It is quite plain, after the coroner's inquest, after the clinical review, and above all, after the Hiqa report, it was quite clear to me that someone had to make a move," he said.

"In the interests of accountability and to restore public confidence in the maternity unit at UHG, I decided to make this formal complaint to the Medical Council. I believe it has to be done.

"The air must be cleared. These three reports have shattered confidence in UHG."

He said he did not consult with Savita's husband, Praveen Halappanavar, beforehand.

The reports on Savita's death have already been forwarded to the Medical Council and the nurses regulatory body, An Bord Altranais. But as the Medical Council does not comment publicly on complaints, it is not clear what, if any, action it is taking on foot of those reports.

Under its own guidelines, however, Mr Conneely's complaint will be assessed by a Preliminary Proceedings Committee, which will decide what, if any further, action should be taken. The options include referring the complaint to the council's fitness to practise committee, which hears cases in public.

University Hospital Galway's announcement last week that up to 30 staff involved in Savita's care will face a disciplinary process was greeted with disappointment by Savita's husband, Praveen.

His solicitor, Gerard O'Donnell has said his client was disappointed that the process would be conducted internally by hospital staff.

The president of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association, Dr Denis McEvoy, said recently that the death of Savita Halappanavar was a great disaster, not only for her family, but the consultant obstetrician who treated her.

"It's a great tragedy. We're all fearful of ending up at the Medical Council, your life is destroyed. It's a great disaster for the family but it's also a great disaster for that poor obstetrician. Her grief pales into insignificance compared to that of the family but you say a prayer that it's not you," he said.

- Maeve Sheehan

Sunday Independent

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