HSE to proceed with 'clinical inquiry' into Savita Halappanavar's death

Thursday 22 November 2012 22.30
Praveen Halappanavar has insisted on a fully independent inquiry into his wife's death
Praveen Halappanavar has insisted on a fully independent inquiry into his wife's death

The Health Service Executive is to proceed with what it is now calling a clinical review into the death of Savita Halappanavar at University Hospital Galway.

The executive has also asked the Health Information and Quality Authority to conduct a statutory inquiry into the death before the HSE review concludes.

The HIQA board met today and will continue its deliberations into the HSE request tomorrow.

Ms Halappanavar’s husband, Praveen, insists that a full, sworn public inquiry is the only acceptable means of establishing the truth of what happened.

He has met the Indian Ambassador, Debashish Chakravarti, to ask him to call on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to set up a public inquiry.

Mr Halappanavar’s solicitor, Gerard O’Donnell, has said the HSE can choose to call the internal inquiry a clinical review, but said in that case his client would not be required for such an investigation.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said everyone in the country wanted the truth as a result of the inquiry by the independent chairman and that he understood HIQA were also to take a decision regarding an inquiry.

Clinical review 'must take place'

HSE Chief Executive designate Tony O'Brien today said the clinical review must take place to establish what happened and to ensure future patient safety.

He said it cannot be halted, even if Savita’s husband permanently refuses to cooperate with it.

Mr O'Brien also said the HSE has legal advice that the medical records in the case are the property of the executive, and have already been made available to the clinical review.

Mr O’Donnell has said his client opposes Savita’s medical records being made available to the inquiry team.

He has said that any attempt by the inquiry team to access them would be legally challenged.

The Data Protection Commissioner says it has no jurisdiction in relation to the medical records of Ms Halappanavar.

In a statement, the Commissioner says the Data Protection Acts 1988 and 2003 only apply to the personal data of living persons.

Savita Halappanavar, 31, died at the Galway hospital on 28 October following a miscarriage.

Mr Halappanavar, meanwhile, has alleged that crucial information is missing from his wife's medical records.

He said requests for tea and toast and an extra blanket are documented. However, there is no written information about her repeated requests for a termination or of the alleged refusal from a consultant saying "This is a Catholic country".

Mr O'Donnell said he wrote to the HSE last Monday requesting further documents, but has yet to receive a reply.

Earlier, the HSE said it would endeavour to provide any information being sought by Mr Halappanavar, relating to his wife's medical records.

Claim over termination requests a 'concern' - Reilly

Minister for Health James Reilly has said that Mr Halappanavar's claim that references to his wife's repeated requests for a termination of her pregnancy are not in her hospital notes is a matter for concern and a substantive matter for the investigation.

Mr Reilly said that he is sure the HSE inquiry will uncover this and “all that will be available to HIQA” but he said, it would be prejudicial of him to make any comment.

“I think the best thing we can do now is to get this HSE investigation expedited and finished as quickly as possible and support HIQA in its investigation as well,” he said.

Mr Reilly rejected a suggestion that the investigation into Savita Halappanavar's death had become a shambles.

“On the contrary”, he said. “I think today’s developments are welcome, they add a new dimension which is very much one of even further independence.

“The perception of the HSE not having an independent inquiry is surely moved by the fact that HIQA are going to run their own inquiry. I know they haven't responded yet, but I would hope and anticipate it would be a positive response,” he said.

The minister he saw no difference between a clinical review and an inquiry and he said there can be no doubt about the independence of HIQA.

Mr Reilly said he expected the full HSE report before Christmas.

It was put to him that Mr Halappanavar wanted nothing short of a full public sworn inquiry and the minister said “nothing is out-ruled about this.

“For instance if we are to have a full public inquiry, and I'm not saying this is the case, but a public inquiry in Ireland could go on for years.

“In the intervening period there is an absolute onus on us to get as quickly as we can to the facts so that if there is any problem in the hospital in Galway in relation to maternity services that it is identified quickly and dealth with and that's not to pre-judge the situation,” he said.

Asked if Mr Halappanaver does not co-operate with the inquiries, how can they get to the truth - the minister said that nothing is ruled out here and when he gets the HSE report even though the HIQA inquiry is ongoing, he will have to take a view at that point as to what actions are necessary.

Mr Reilly said he had no personal contact with Mr Halappanavar but he said he is very happy to meet him if that is any value to him, but, he said, he certainly doesn't want to put any pressure on him or make him feel in any way that he wishes to make his situation any more unbearable than it is