Media coverage of Savita Halappanavar’s tragic death showed ‘no respect for dignity of patient or her family’

“Unacceptable” and “regrettable” is how the general manager of University Hospital Galway has described the media coverage last month about the contents of a draft report into the tragic death of 31-year-old mother-to-be Savita Halappanavar at the hospital in late October.

Tony Canavan claimed the coverage showed “no respect for the dignity of the patient and her family or for due process”.

“The coverage in the media of what was represented as contents of a draft report was as unacceptable as it was regrettable, showing no respect for the dignity of the patient and her family or for due process.

“On behalf of Galway and Roscommon University Hospitals Group we wish to publicly sympathise with Mr Halappanavar on his understandable distress with the recent media coverage given what was represented as contents of a draft of the clinical incident review into his wife’s treatment at University Hospital Galway.

“The terms of reference of the investigation team, led by independent chairman Professor Sir Arulkumaran, state that the investigation will be ‘cognisant of the rights of all involved to privacy and confidentiality; dignity and respect; due process; and natural and constitutional justice’.”

Mr Canavan said the media coverage relating to the late dentist’s death was also distressing for many of UHG’s staff who contributed to the investigation.

“The staff at the hospital have co-operated fully and complied with all the demands of this investigation.”

In a statement issued at a recent meeting of the HSE West’s regional health forum he said the health authority will not comment on media reports. He asked forum members not to make any comment that could add to Mr Halappanavar’s distress or interfere with due process.

He went on to give an update on what UHG as been doing in response to the tragedy, the first maternal death at UHG in 17 years.

“Obviously I cannot discuss the detail of any patient’s care and I would ask members not to raise any questions or issues that impinge on patient privacy or encroach on the work and independence of the investigation team, the coroner or HIQA.

“As is the normal legal requirement in the case of maternal and other untimely deaths the coroner was immediately informed by University Hospital Galway and the coroner is conducting a separate legal enquiry into the cause of her death.”

April 8 for Coroner’s inquest

He said in line with national and international practice, an internal review was established by UHG on October 30 and the HSE’s National Incident Management Team was verbally notified. This was followed by a formal notification on November 1 and UHG began identifying suitably experienced clinicians in the relevant fields and preparing terms of reference for the review.

“On 14 November the HSE confirmed that the National Incident Management Team (NIMT ) would oversee the investigation and the internal review was subsumed into that process. On 19 November, the HSE announced an independent international expert in obstetrics and gynaecology as Chair of the Investigation Team and provided details of the other team members.

“University Hospital Galway is co-operating fully with the investigation team established by the HSE and with the coroner. We are also co-operating fully with the separate HIQA investigation and with Mr Halappanavar’s legal representatives.”

Mr Canavan went on to say that HIQA visited the health authority on Wednesday February 27 as part of its investigation. The Coroner has set April 8 as the start date for the inquest.

“We are awaiting the report of the HSE NIMT appointed investigation team. While this is going on, the hospital continues to be exceptionally busy and we still have a job to do to look after the patients in our care with the help of our excellent staff who provide a service to these patients.”

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