Saturday 19 January 2019

Actions against Savita hospital staff 'a cop-out'

DISCIPLINARY action taken against a number of staff at University Hospital Galway (UHG) following the death of Savita Halappanavar has been slammed as a "total whitewash".

The former chairman of the West Health Forum, councillor Padraig Conneely, criticised the actions taken, saying they were insufficient.

He added that suspensions and even dismissals should have been enforced by the hospital among the highest-ranking staff members whose conduct was found to merit disciplinary action.


Nine hospital staff involved in Ms Halappanavar's care were disciplined after a review of her case. However, no staff members were dismissed or suspended and all continue to work at UHG.

Twenty-one staff members who were involved in caring for the young dentist were found to have "no case to answer". These include staff in the hospital's ICU who were later praised for their care of Ms Halappanavar.

However, the disciplinary measures were criticised by Mr Conneely, who believes much stricter censure was required.

"It's a cop-out and a sham," he said. "The hospital had to be seen to do something after three independent reviews gave a damning review of the treatment of this young woman. But this is nowhere near sufficient."

The HSE said the disciplinary action against almost all of the nine staff has now been completed. Some were required to undergo further training while others received written warnings.

The written warnings are issued for a period of nine months and give details of the complaint along with the improvements required and the time scale for that improvement.

The hospital group said the disciplinary review was confidential, and it would not release the names of those involved.

The solicitor for widower Praveen Halappanavar, Gerard O'Donnell, said neither he nor his client had been made aware of the disciplinary action.

Mr Halappanavar is still out of country on a mid-term work contract, but is expected to return to Galway before long.

"We had no idea that this had happened," said Mr O'Donnell. "I would like to have kept abreast of it in order to let my client know what was going on.

"Sanctions have been imposed, but regardless of the sanctions, nothing is going to bring Savita back. At the end of it all, we want to see that this is something that never occurs again."

Mr O'Donnell confirmed that a civil suit being taken by Mr Halappanavar against the HSE and obstetrician Katherine Astbury was progressing.


"We are now waiting for the parties to put in their defence and we would expect that defence, whether it be an admission or liability or a denial of liability, to be in by October," he said.

"Once the defence is in we will serve a notice of trial and we would be appealing for an early hearing because Praveen has endured so much."

Savita Halappanavar (31) was 17 weeks pregnant and miscarrying when she was admitted to UHG on October 21. She died seven days later on October 28 as a result of septicaemia caused by ecoli ESBL.


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