Sunday 23 October 2016

Maternity hospital row must be sorted

Published 02/05/2016 | 02:30

The National Maternity Hospital on Holles Street Photo Damien Eagers / Irish Independent
The National Maternity Hospital on Holles Street Photo Damien Eagers / Irish Independent

A row over the site of a new National Maternity Hospital will evoke that sinking feeling among many citizens. It recalls the tangled series of disputes about a similar children's facility which caused some 20 years of delays.

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News of the maternity site dispute comes days after An Bord Pleanála finally gave clearance for the new children's hospital, ending a tragic litany of bad-tempered disputes in which the country's sick children were the big losers. The lessons from that reprehensible saga must be taken on board quickly to avoid a repeat in the case of efforts to improve maternity services.

Plans to move the country's biggest maternity facility, the National Maternity Hospital, from its overcrowded and inadequate historic site in Holles Street, in the heart of Dublin, were announced to great acclaim three years ago. It is proposed to relocate it at a new series of buildings on the St Vincent's Hospital campus in Donnybrook.

The issue in dispute is essentially about governance. The St Vincent's Health Care Group believes there should be one governing authority for the entire hospital complex, including the maternity services.

The National Maternity Hospital, backed by the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, believes they should maintain autonomy. Relations between both institutions are now at a dangerously low level. The problems risk sinking plans for the maternity hospital move and a return to planning alternatives.

That would risk following the ruinous pattern of the children's facility where a series of sites were considered, disputed and then discounted. It is simply not good enough.

This stand-off is crying out for sensible and effective mediation for the good of everyone.

Irish Independent

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