Thursday 23 November 2017

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

James Menton
James Menton
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

The Sisters of Charity are to retain ownership of the new €300m national maternity hospital when it moves to the St Vincent's campus, it was confirmed last night.

The reassurance that the controversial deal underpinning the transfer of the maternity hospital to the site would remain unchanged was key to the board of St Vincent's Healthcare Group supporting the proposed relocation at a lengthy board meeting yesterday.

The Sisters of Charity had been urged by critics of the deal to transfer the site to the State, which would mean they would not be owners of the hospital, removing concerns about the influence of the Catholic ethos on services. The board, chaired by James Menton, and which was attended by its main shareholders the Sisters of Charity, said St Vincent's and the board of the maternity hospital in Holles St will now start the next phase of the project.

They will work with Health Minister Simon Harris and officials in translating the agreement into a legal document to secure the clinical and corporate governance structures of new hospital.

"These legal agreements will be effected in accordance with all of the provisions contained in the agreement mediated by Kieran Mulvey and endorsed by both hospitals."

The agreement, published in recent days, has been criticised by some legal experts as failing to provide watertight safeguards that the new hospital will have clinical independence.

Read More: If St Vincent's plan did fail, where else can the maternity hospital go?

In particular, they have drawn attention to the make-up of the nine-person board and the method of selection of the international expert who will be a member and have a casting vote.

The St Vincent's board said last night that "a new maternity hospital is urgently needed."

Locating it alongside St. Vincent's acute hospital will provide synergies for both hospitals that will lead to the delivery of modern, world class medical, maternity and neonatal services.

"Every year St Vincent's provides acute care to over 80,000 women and it is strongly positioned to provide women and infant-centred care in support of the national maternity hospital at Elm Park. There is a long and historical supportive clinical relationship between both hospitals."

It welcomed the endorsement of the agreement by the Holles Street board on Wednesday night. This was rejected by three members, including the former Holles Street master Dr Peter Boylan, who resigned yesterday saying the Holles St board is "blind" to its actions.

The St Vincent's board also welcomed the clarity provided by the health minister, saying he was " unequivocal" that the relocation would take place under the terms of the agreement.

Holles Street master Dr Rhona Mahony said she remains convinced the agreement will guarantee the new hospital will have full clinical independence.

The outcome of a planning application for the hospital is due in September.

Kieran Mulvey, the former chairman of the Workplace Relations Commission said yesterday that the agreement does not purport to be a legal document.

It says quite clearly that the heads of agreement will have to go forward for legal drafting.

But during the process legal experts for both hospitals analysed it, he said.

"I took independent legal advice myself. I have been drafting complex agreements for 20 years," he said.


"Agreements are done with the intention of getting the support of the parties."

Referring to concerns about the selection of an international expert with a casting vote to the board of the new hospital he said that person would have to be agreed by both hospitals.

"That was the compromise to prevent either side having a majority," he added.

Irish Independent

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