Sunday 17 December 2017

Hospital plan now in doubt as row over ownership deepens

Health Minister Simon Harris Photo: Frank McGrath
Health Minister Simon Harris Photo: Frank McGrath
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

The future of the new national maternity hospital has been thrown into doubt as the row over its ownership deepened last night.

The board of St Vincent's Healthcare Group - controlled by the Sisters of Charity - announced it is to review its decision to allow the hospital to be built on its campus.

It follows days of controversy over the decision to allow the religious order to own the new €300m national maternity hospital which will be built on its land surrounding St Vincent's Hospital. In a statement yesterday, the chairman of St Vincent's Group, James Menton, said: "In view of the controversy and misinformation that has arisen in recent times regarding the project, and the views expressed by the Health Minister and other members of the Oireachtas, the board of St Vincent's Healthcare Group will review the status of the project in light of the current situation."

Critics, including some of the past residents of the Magdalene Laundries, said the religious order should not be allowed to own the hospital.

The former master of Holles St, Dr Peter Boylan, also said he feared it would lead to some procedures not being provided to women due to religious ethos.

However, Dr Rhona Mahony has supported the move, saying she was satisfied that an agreement worked out between the board of Holles St and St Vincent's Healthcare Group has enough legal safeguards to allow for its independence.

"It will be operated by a new company with an independent board and will be clinically and operationally entirely independent in line with national maternity policy," she said.

Health Minister Simon Harris also said he was reassured that its independence was guaranteed and that it could not be sold without agreement by the State.

The minister for health said last night he remains fully committed to the project.

"The clinical, operational and financial independence of the new hospital as provided for in the agreement will also be copperfastened in new legal arrangements," he added.

Dr Mahony said the new hospital is urgent because the current building where it is housed is "not fit for purpose".

Mr Menton said yesterday: "On November 21, 2016, following six months of intensive discussions chaired by Mr Kieran Mulvey (former CEO of the Workplace Relations Commission), St Vincent's Healthcare Group and the National Maternity Hospital (NMH) signed a comprehensive agreement.

"It provided for the corporate and clinical governance arrangements for the future operation of a new maternity hospital, called 'The National Maternity Hospital at Elm Park DAC'."

Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher said:"Public disquiet will continue to grow in the absence of the full disclosure of the agreement reached."

Irish Independent

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