Decision on location of new hospital must be non-political, Varadkar is told
The location for a major new maternity hospital in Dublin has to be free "from politics" and put expectant mothers' interests first, a patients' rights group has warned.
It comes as a Department of Health review is expected to recommend that the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin city centre be moved to the campus of Connolly Hospital in the Dublin West constituency.
Both the Health Minister Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Joan Burton are sitting TDs in the Dublin West constituency.
The original request by the Rotunda was to be relocated on the site of the nearby Mater Hospital in Dublin, where its obstetric patients who develop serious complications are currently transferred. However, it was later placed in a hospital group with Connolly and Beaumont Hospitals in north Dublin. Connolly is now regarded as the preferred site for a rebuilt Rotunda in the coming years.
Mr Varadkar previously said the move by his predecessor Dr James Reilly to add Balbriggan, in Mr Reilly's own constituency, to a list of sites for the development of primary care centres "looked like" stroke politics.
Last night, the Irish Patients Association said it was important the decision on where to relocate the Rotunda Hospital was "free from politics".
The association's CEO, Stephen McMahon, told the Irish Independent that for the sake of "transparency" and to avoid any suggestion of stroke politics, it was important the Government outlines clearly what criteria the new site is selected.
"This is obviously something that needs to be addressed, but to be addressed in a way that isn't political," Mr McMahon said.
"That means it needs to find the best solution for expectant mothers that are using that facility in some more modern setting that meets the modern-day standards."
He added that the Government needed to act with "transparency" and outline clearly the criteria for whatever site is ultimately selected.
"I think it is also important that the views of patients who will be availing of the services are taken into account, as well as groups that would provide post-natal depression services and other groups like this."
Responding to suggestions the new hospital could be located adjacent to Connolly Hospital, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation general secretary Liam Doran said the Dublin West site would make a good location as it is close to the M50 motorway and because there is previously acquired land there which "would help keep costs down".
He added: "The most overriding thing here is that the Rotunda is no longer fit-for-purpose, so it is crucial the new investment is made as quickly as possible.
"I'm not going to play politics with where the site is or isn't but it's long overdue and is very welcome for both patients and staff who require state-of-the-art facilities. Bring on the investment as soon as possible," he said.
A spokesman for Mr Varadkar said that while it has already been decided that the National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street will relocate to beside St Vincent's Hospital in south Dublin, no decision has been taken in relation to new sites for the Rotunda, Coombe and Limerick maternity hospitals.
He said international best practice is to co-locate maternity hospitals with adult acute services.
"The three maternity hospitals in the Greater Dublin Area, the Rotunda, the National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street and The Coombe are stand-alone facilities, separate from acute services. This model of stand-alone maternity hospitals is not the norm internationally."
He said the decision to select the sites would be based only what was in the best interest of patients and nothing else.