Thursday 14 December 2017

Holles Street board gives fresh backing to controversial move

Dr Rhona Mahony and deputy chairperson of the board Nicholas Kearns at a meeting of the board of Holles Street last night. Photo: Arthur Carron
Dr Rhona Mahony and deputy chairperson of the board Nicholas Kearns at a meeting of the board of Holles Street last night. Photo: Arthur Carron

Ryan Nugent and Eilish O'Regan

Controversial plans to build a new €300m maternity hospital, which would be owned by the Sisters of Charity, were re-endorsed by the board of Holles Street maternity hospital last night.

The majority decision to back the plan, despite strong public opposition and heated debate, was taken at a four-hour board meeting. Former master and board member Dr Peter Boylan, who earlier this week was asked by text message to resign over his criticism of the project, did not step down.

No attempt was made by other members of the board to ask him to resign at the meeting.

Dr Boylan was one of three members, along with Dublin Lord Mayor Brendan Carr and Sinn Féin Councillor Michael Mac Donncha, who voted against the re-endorsement at the meeting.

The new maternity hospital is due to be built at the St Vincent's Hospital campus at Elm Park on a site owned by the Sisters of Charity, who control the St Vincent's Healthcare Group.

The Holles Street board's deputy chairman Nicholas Kearns, flanked by hospital master Dr Rhona Mahony, said after the meeting that the board welcomed the statement from St Vincent's Healthcare Group on Tuesday saying all services which are legal will be available in the new hospital.

Read more: National Maternity controversy: 'This is a storm in a teacup, a non-issue' - Dr Rhona Mahony calls text from brother-in-law 'intimidating'

This agreement between the hospitals "provides that the clinical, financial and operational independence of the new national maternity hospital at Elm Park shall be enshrined in its memorandum and articles of association and all related legal agreements," he said. The board of St Vincent's Healthcare Group will meet today to review its involvement but it is unlikely to pull out of the deal.

Speaking after the meeting last night, Lord Mayor Brendan Carr, a Labour councillors said: "I didn't support the statement. I was very disappointed that they didn't seem to be cognisant of the serious concerns the people have, serious concerns of €300m of public money being put into the development.

"And there didn't seem to be any attempt or any willingness at all for the majority of the members of the board to try and take that on board."

He warned: "This was all about reaffirming a decision that was made last November which has caused this problem in the first place."

Councillor Mac Donncha said: "It was a lengthy meeting and at times it was a tense meeting, a very intense discussion on the situation in terms of the agreement and where that stands."

"I voted against the re-endorsement because I still have major concerns, particularly because of major developments in the past week. The issue of ownership was not addressed," he added.

Earlier he called on the Minister for Health Simon Harris to consider a compulsory purchase order to buy the site of the hospital from the religious order.

"I believe if that was to happen and the board supported that, that it would resolve a lot of the concerns" he added.

Meanwhile fears are growing that the independence of the new national maternity hospital could be potentially comprised by the selection of its board.

The hospital will have a nine-member board, with four drawn from St Vincent's Healthcare Group and the same number from National Maternity Hospital Chartered Trust.

Read more: Dr Peter Boylan profiled: 'Captain' who delivered 6,000 babies is married to sister of current Master

The ninth member will be an international obstetrics expert who will have the casting vote.

However, details over the selection of this crucial ninth member, contained in the agreement worked out between the boards of Holles Street and St Vincent's, have sparked concern.

The selection will be by three-person committee, two of whom will be representatives of St Vincent's, with just one from Holles Street.

Legal experts say this could create potential problems.

Irish Independent

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