The National Maternity Hospital at Holles Street in Dublin. Mark Stedman/
malak thawley

Hospital argues that inquiry into death of pregnant woman could cause 'serious risk to patients'

The National Maternity Hospital says it is open to another review, but not of the type proposed by the minister.

THE NATIONAL MATERNITY Hospital has expressed concern that a new inquiry into the death of a woman at the hospital could lead to “massive operational and safety issues”.

The inquiry into the death of Malak Thawley was instituted by the Minister for Health and is to be carried out by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa).

The hospital argues that the manner the inquiry is to be carried out would “have a chilling effect” on the delivery of high risk and emergency care at the hospital.

Today, the National Maternity Hospital (NMH) was granted leave to bring a judicial review of the decision to hold the inquiry.

Thawley (34) died at the Dublin hospital on 8 May 2016 during surgery for an ectopic pregnancy.

The NMH accepted responsibility and acknowledged liability for her death and last week a damages case taken by her husband against the hospital was settled.

The hospital says that three reviews have taken place following Thawley’s death and that they have been “consistent in their findings”.

The hospital says that changes have been implemented following these reviews and that it remains open to assisting in further reviews, but that the manner of the inquiry being suggested could pose a risk to patients.

In a statement, the hospital stated:

The particular type of review currently directed by the Minister for Health would be carried out under Section 9.2 of the Health Act, a section to be used only when the minister believes there is a serious risk to patients.This conveys to our staff and our patients that the minister believes that emergency surgical practice in this Hospital outside “core hours” is unsafe.

“Any such belief is not supported by the facts and is inconsistent with the investigation’s own terms of reference and runs contrary to the findings of the three reviews carried out to date.”

In an affidavit submitted as part of the proceedings, master of the NMH Dr Rhona Mahony said that if emergency surgery outside “core hours” was deemed “unsafe” it could have insurance implications for the hospital.

“The section 9 investigation also further raises the question of indemnity if an adverse outcome arises during an emergency surgical procedure outside of supposed “core hours” not directly attended by a consultant,” Dr Mahony said.

This has the potential to radically change clinical practice as clinicians avoid high-risk procedures at certain times of the day or night on the basis of the Minister’s view that childbirth has core hours.

Instead of the section 9 inquiry, the NMH has suggested an international external review be carried out by an expert body such as the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology UK.

The NMH has said that it has sought to meet with Minister Simon Harris to explain “the clinical implications of the Section 9 review” but says that a meeting has not been arranged.

Comments are closed as legal proceedings are ongoing. 

Read: Husband whose pregnant wife died during Holles Street surgery settles damages case >

Read: Harris ‘seriously considering’ independent inquiry into death of pregnant woman at Holles Street >