Harris calls hospital row an 'unedifying spat' and warns no 'plan B' to talks
Health Minister Simon Harris has admitted he is powerless to solve the "unedifying spat" over a plan to move the National Maternity hospital to the St Vincent's Hospital campus.
But he says there is no "plan B" to a mediation process that is being pursued.
Mr Harris was speaking in the Seanad in response to a question from Labour's Kevin Humphreys, who highlighted the "turf war" between the two hospitals and said: "We cannot allow up to 10,000 babies be delivered in a hospital that was built in the 1800s."
Mr Harris said he had visited the current Holles Street location since becoming minister, saying it was "an entirely inappropriate and sub-standard building".
"It is not up to the standards we would want for expectant mothers and their infant children ... it is utterly unacceptable," he added.
The minister said he had appointed former Workplace Relations Commission chief Kieran Mulvey as a mediator in the row. However, he stressed that both institutions were voluntary independent hospitals and said, "therefore, I cannot simply impose a solution".
"An unedifying spat between two of our great medical institutions does not serve patients well," he added.
Mr Humphreys said €5m had already been spent preparing the project. He said the minister would face a number of "bad choices" if mediation failed and that he would have to "pick the best of them".
He urged Mr Harris to investigate the possibility of a compulsory purchase of the site to allow the hospital to be built.
Mr Harris said he shared the senator's frustration at the situation. He said €5m had already been spent because "as a country we want to deliver this landmark project".
He warned that there was "not an apparent plan B", adding: "That is why it is so important that the hospitals get this right.
"If these hospitals walk off the pitch, there is no simple option. The only people who will suffer, along with front-line staff, are the future expectant mothers of this country and their babies. We cannot allow that to happen."
Mr Harris said he had to be careful what he said about the matter because he did not want to undermine the mediation process.
The two hospitals are at loggerheads because of the proposed governance requirements set down by St Vincent's for the new hospital on their grounds in Elm Park. These will place all services, including tertiary maternity and neonatal services, under the control of the St Vincent's board and shareholders, the Religious Sisters of Charity.