'There must be separation between church and medicine': Dr Chris Fitzpatrick on quitting the project board
Doctors will find it "very difficult" to have clinical independence working in a hospital that is owned by a religious organisation, Prof Chris Fitzpatrick said today.
Dr Fitzpatrick stepped down from his role on the project board of the National Maternity Hospital in solidarity with Dr Peter Boylan and expressed his concerns about the Sisters of Charity having ownership of the €300m taxpayer-funded facility.
Speaking on Today With Sean O'Rourke on RTE Radio one, he said: "I was concerned and have been concerned in relation to the ownership ad governance model that has emerged from recent negotiations.
"I very much share the view of Dr Peter Boylan and felt I'd no alternative other than to resign from my position on the project board.
"I'd like to emphasise that I registered my concerns about this almost a year ago to the day about this, I spoke about this publicly to the media and I was encouraged by the National Maternity Hospital to address those concerns in relation to the governance structures that were being discussed at the time with St Vincent's Healthcare...
"This is the first maternity hospital to emerge out of the new government strategy and it's the first maternity hospital being build in this century.
"I think it's absolutely critical in relation to maternity services that there must be a distinction and separation between church and medicine, particularly when it comes to female reproductive healthcare."
Four of the nine board members for the new National Maternity hospital will be from the St Vincent's Hospital, which Prof Fitzpatrick says is a cause for concern.
He explained: "I've been a consultant for over 20 years and I was the master of a Dublin maternity hospital for seven years would have found it very difficult to operate with clinical independence under a board that is constituted in the way that the proposed board is constituted...
"I think to the casual bystander to have a maternity hospital in 21st century Ireland owned by a religious organisation who have a very significant controlling influence on the board, they have four representatives out of nine."
He also spoke about the need for a unified board to ensure the hospital is run smoothly.
Prof Fitzpatrick said: "To hear references to triple-lock systems, reserved powers and golden shares being held by a minister and adjudication by ministers in relation to grievances that is not the way to run a maternity hospital.
"I think it guarantees division and confusion.
"The type of board you need to report to is a unified board, board members who are there for their competency, what they bring to the table and their commitment and their shared views.
"They're not there to represent St Vincent's or the National Maternity Hospital, they're there to represent the patient."