Saturday 22 July 2017

Simon Harris calls for 'cool heads' as he wades into maternity hospital row

Health Minister Simon Harris Photo: Frank McGrath
Health Minister Simon Harris Photo: Frank McGrath
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Health Minister Simon Harris today called for "cool heads" as he waded into the row which threatens the future of a new national maternity hospital.

The minister was attempting to quell the controversy which has led to St Vincent's Healthcare Group to review its offer of a site at its Dublin campus for the new hospital.

Asked if he intends to meet the group, he said will allow its board to meet to discuss the issue next week.

The row erupted over the decision to give ownership of the new maternity hospital to the Sisters of Charity, the religious order who own the campus where the St Vincent's public and private hospitals are located.

The plan is to re-locate the maternity hospital to a new €300m building to be constructed at St Vincent's campus in Elm Park, two miles away.

Following criticism of the decision to give ownership to the order, and comments by the minister, the St Vincent's board is now reviewing the offer of the site , despite an application for planning permission to build the new hospitals being already lodged.

 Addressing the annual meeting of the Irish Medical Organisation today the minister said that he is very committed to the project and there is no "plan B " to build it elsewhere.

"After years of failing to progress the building of a new National Maternity Hospital and failing women and infants by leaving them in out of date, inadequate and not fit for purpose hospital facilities, late last year the two voluntary hospitals, Holles St and St Vincent’s reached an agreement on how they would work together to deliver this new state of the art hospital, and in line with international best practice, co-located with an acute adult hospital.

"It is a new National Maternity Hospital that women and infants in this country desperately need.  

"I know reaching that agreement wasn’t easy and I am very grateful to both hospitals for having achieved that. Central to that agreement is the decision by St Vincent’s Healthcare Group to give the State, free of charge, a site in the middle of their campus in Elm Park, co-located with their public adult acute hospital.

"Now I, as Minister for Health have to make that agreement and the hospital to be built on that site,work for public health policy, the taxpayer and the State.

"We have all heard the concerns and opinions that very many people have expressed over recent days.  This has been difficult for all stakeholders and I know that St Vincent’s want time to reflect on this and indeed to reflect on some of the things I have said.  I respect that.  But here’s the thing.

"We need to build this new hospital. It is not good enough for women have to ‘put up with’ delivering their babies in Holles St, which the Master, Dr Rhona Mahony, very clearly says is a hospital facility which is not fit for purpose."

He said the international norm is to co-locate maternity hospitals with acute adult hospitals. And whilst much commentary this week has been about bricks and mortar – it is about so much more than that. It’s about access to theatres, to intensive care facilities, to high dependency units, to consultants.

" It’s about two hospitals working together to meet the full spectrum of needs of women and infants. It’s about empowering doctors to make clinical decisions. It’s about making sure that no doctor finds themselves at three in the morning in the National Maternity Hospital with a woman needing emergency care and waiting and wondering how and when they will get to an acute adult hospital."

He added:"I am very committed to this project and I will work with all stakeholders to ensure that we do build this hospital.  Yes, it's complicated, and we must work together to address concerns that some people have expressed."  

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