Sunday 22 January 2017

Board row puts €200m funding for maternity hospital at risk

Published 06/11/2016 | 02:30

Health Minister Simon Harris
Health Minister Simon Harris

An investment of more than €200m for a new National Maternity Hospital (NMH) is hanging in the balance following a dispute over the independence of a new legal entity that will see it become a wholly owned subsidiary of the St Vincent's Hospital Group (SVHG).

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At least, €150m of taxpayers' funds have been set aside for the co-location of the NMH at St Vincent's Elm Park campus in Dublin.

The sale of the NMH at Holles Street is also expected to exceed €60m and the funds will be used for the proposed state-of-the-art facility for women and infants.

The third set of talks between both sides, which are being mediated by Kieran Mulvey - former chief executive of the Labour Relations Commission - could have a knock-on impact on plans to co-locate Dublin's Rotunda and Coombe maternity hospitals on the sites of Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown and St James's Hospital. Significant progress has been made in the search for a solution.

It is understood the board of the NMH agreed to dissolve and become a limited company under the auspices of the SVHG, subject to clarification on the independence of the new company's board.

It would host four representatives from each facility as well as an independent ninth member.

Last week it emerged that Mulvey recommended the creation of a new special-purpose vehicle-type company.

This allows companies such as joint ventures to incorporate for a specific or sole purpose and have the company's powers restricted rather than unlimited.

The proposal of a ninth board nominee from UCD - St Vincent's University Hospital is affiliated to UCD - is understood to be the last major hurdle.

The NMH has consistently said that clinical and corporate independence is required to protect maternity services.

The SVHG has stated that the new NMH will receive full clinical autonomy.

Both the NMH and SVHG have refused to comment on the current stalemate under an agreed protocol not to speak to the media.

The board of the SVHG will shortly hold its AGM after which its accounts for 2014 and 2015 will be filed.

The board of the NMH is also expected to hold an EGM this week to consider Mulvey's detailed proposal.

Earlier this year, the Government published a National Maternity Strategy, endorsing the co-location of maternity hospitals with acute general hospitals and the new NMH is regarded as key to the remaining deals.

"The Department is committed to the redevelopment of the four remaining stand-alone maternity hospitals on acute hospital sites," said a spokesperson for Health Minister Simon Harris.

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