Savita Halappanavar only maternal death recorded in Ireland despite five other fatalities

A woman holds a picture of Savita Halappanava during a candle lit vigil outside Belfast City Hall, Northern Ireland

A new report has found that the Central Statistics Office (CSO) has not recorded the true number of maternal deaths in Ireland.

The latest annual CSO report for 2012 records one maternal death during the year, that of Savita Halappanavar, while at least five more fatalities were reported by maternity units.

It has been revealed that the lack of accuracy on behalf of the CSO is because of the limited sources they refer to. They rely on death certificates for information and do not contact hospitals when compiling their figures, a spokesman recently told the Irish Independent.

Mrs Halappanavar, whose death has been the subject of two inquiries and an inquest, died in University Hospital Galway on October 28, 2012 and was recorded as the one maternal death in the CSO report. However, two maternal deaths have also been reported by Coombe Maternity Hospital in Dublin and there were three in Cork University Hospital that have not been included in the CSO.

A report carried out last year has discovered these gaps in the CSO report and indicates that the rate of maternal death in Ireland is double the official figure. The official maternal death rate, based on the CSO figures, was four per 100,000 births. However, the first report from the Maternal Death Enquiry (MDE) Ireland says the true maternal death rate is eight per 100,000 births.

Whereas the CSO relies on death certificates, the MDE, which is funded by the HSE, gathers  its information from various sources including hospitals, Coroners’ Courts and public health nurses. Their latest report, covering 2009 to  2011, found that 25 women who attended Irish maternity hospitals died during this period of time. In comparison, the CSO figures missed 20 of those deaths.

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