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Family want review into woman’s death at UHK published

The family of a 34-year-old woman – who died after giving birth at University Hospital Kerry (UHK) – have said they are upset by delays in the HSE external review into her death.

Zimbabwe-born Tatenda Mukwata died six hours after giving birth to her fourth child, Eva, by Caesarean section on 21 April 2022. Ms Mukwata lived in a room in a direct provision centre in Kenmare, Co Kerry, with her three daughters.

The jury at the inquest into her death last year returned a unanimous verdict of medical misadventure. “This was probably preventable. There was a misdiagnosis followed by a failure to investigate other possible differential misdiagnoses,” the jury said in its findings.

The HSE apologised to the Mukwata family for the failings in care afforded to Tatenda; adding that “earlier intervention would probably have prevented Tatenda’s death”.

It started an external review of the circumstances surrounding Ms Mukwata’s death in September 2022, which was due to be completed in January of last year under the terms of reference. However, the review is still ongoing.

The Mukwata family say they are unable to heal due to delays in the investigation, adding they still have many unanswered questions over what happened to Tatenda.

“They give an apology, they are holding back the report. It doesn’t make sense to me. If they really meant it, they’d be giving us answers right now so we heal and move on. We are hoping the report will bring something to us, we need to know,” said Ms Mukwata’s mother Catherine.

“People learn from mistakes. Even if the report is bad, they will never repeat those mistakes to somebody else. We can all move forward. People at home in Zimbabwe are asking me all the time. Tatenda’s grandmother is elderly. She wants to know. She says ‘Oh, you’re going to get the answers when I’m gone’. And we don’t want Tatenda’s passing to be swept under the carpet,” Mrs Mukwata told RTÉ’s Drivetime.

UHK informed the Mukwata family in January that it had returned a draft report into Tatenda’s death to the external review team for “additional consideration”.

“They keep apologising about the report not coming out. It’s really upsetting. They say its due to additional consideration, what are those additional considerations? It’s a report, just publish as it is. It’s tiring. It’s draining. We need the report out.”

“We just want answers. We still haven’t recovered. And we will never recover. We will take it to the grave. But at least we can heal. We can get justice for Tatenda. And that is all we are seeking – is justice,” added Mrs Mukwata.

Tatenda Mukwata’s eldest daughter, Rutendo, 20, said the family needs the report to move forward.

“My grandmother wants these things to understand what happened. You can never really close the chapter, but you can move forward. You can’t move forward if you have to look for other things. Maybe next year, if you are still looking for the external review – it will leave pieces of you still wondering or open,” she said.

The jury at the inquest made seven recommendations including that clinicians need to heed nurses’ concerns, staff should not be required to work excessive hours and for the widespread implementation of an electronic record system.

Tatenda Mukwata (R) with her mother Catherine (L)

The Mukwata family want all recommendations of the jury to be enforced.

“Tatenda is not going to come back,” said Catherine Mukwata, “but if the recommendations are implemented, and they save somebody’s life, that would be great. That’s what we can look forward to. It was so annoying to know that Tatenda should not have died.”

A spokesperson for UHK said it cannot comment on individual cases.

“In keeping with HSE protocols, all maternal deaths are independently reviewed. With regard to this case, the review process is ongoing. On receipt of the final Report from the Review Team further engagement will take place with the family in the first instance.”

Ms Mukwata gave birth to a healthy baby girl at 7.50pm on the evening of 20 April 2022, but died approximately six hours later. Her inquest heard how she bled to death but the fact she was haemorrhaging after her Caesarian section went undetected.

Her eldest daughter Rutendo, then a Leaving Cert student, was told to come to hospital – where she both learned of her new sister and her mother’s death.

The family had been granted permission to stay in Ireland shortly before Ms Mukwata’s death. The mother-of-three had been accepted to study nursing at University College Cork the following September.

“It’s one of those things you can never recover from. It’s very difficult for my younger sisters. You hear that over time you heal, but in my case I feel that’s never the situation,” said Rutendo Mukwata.

Tatenda’s now two teenage daughters are being raised by their grandmother Catherine in England, alongside baby Eva.

Rutendo Mukwata is studying aviation management at University near London, having also received a youth achievement award in Kerry last year.

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