Friday 24 November 2017

Mulvey: It's not possible for nuns to hand over maternity hospital land as it is 'tied up with loans'

Mediator Kieran Mulvey Photo: Tony Gavin
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

The Sisters of Charity cannot sell the land on which the new National Maternity Hospital will be built because it is tied up in financial and legal agreements, mediator Kieran Mulvey has said.

His comments follow the ongoing public row over the State’s decision to build the €300m hospital on the St Vincent’s Hospital campus on land which automatically makes the Sisters of Charity the owners of the facility.

It has led to repeated calls on the religious order to simply give the hospital to the State, removing the concerns about the impact the Catholic ethos might have on services.

However, Mr Mulvey, who was privy to private details of the St Vincent’s Healthcare Group during the six months of negotiations, told the Irish Independent it is not possible to cede ownership of the land at this stage.

Read more: St Vincent's board backs deal after reassurance it will own new hospital

“They have other loans. They have other considerations. There is the campus as a whole.

“The campus would lose value if a particular section at the centre of it was not under the current ownership arrangement.

“There are large borrowings by the St Vincent’s Healthcare Group which will have to be met.”

He said he believed the issue of ownership can be satisfactorily resolved between the Department of Health and St Vincent’s in the future.

“The idea that you can just separate a piece of land is just not legally possible at the moment,” Mr Mulvey added.

He also warned against calls to make it the subject of a compulsory purchase order.

“The last time that was tried it ended up in the Supreme Court and the State lost it. That was after four years.”

His comments came in the wake of the resignation of Coombe obstetrician Dr Chris Fitzpatrick from the HSE’s planning group for the hospital.

Dr Fitzpatrick said the plan was “inappropriate and insensitive” in its current form and the National Maternity Hospital should be given ownership of the site.

Read more: 'There must be separation between church and medicine': Dr Chris Fitzpatrick on quitting the project board

His resignation follows the decision by former Holles Street master Dr Peter Boylan to step down from the hospital’s board over its support for the deal. He said it was “blind” to its actions.

However, Mr Mulvey said he believes the agreement allows for the full clinical independence of the new hospital and the next step is to translate it into a legally binding document.

“Agreements are done with the intention of getting the support of the parties and that is how it was done. This now goes to a new phase where  Department of Health and the two hospitals will draft the final agreement. It will make it legally copperfastened,” he said.

There are necessary sections of the agreement which must be written into the legal document, he added.

Responding to criticism of the agreement he said: “People make comments when they were not in the room and do not know the compromises that have to be made.”

He defended the make-up of the board and said it will not give either of the merging hospitals a majority.

The company which controls the hospital is a subsidiary of St Vincent’s Healthcare Group but it has absolute powers of autonomy, he added.

The agreement will go through the rigours of corporate analysis, he said.

St Vincent’s Healthcare Group yesterday declined to elaborate on the financial and legal constraints which are preventing the sale of the land.

A spokeswoman for the group said “the board is not making any further comment at this point in time”.

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