Three maternity masters demand to retain control
The stakes have risen in the row over control of a new national maternity hospital following a show of solidarity between the country's three masters.
Dr Sharon Sheehan of the Coombe and Prof Fergal Malone of the Rotunda have rowed in behind master of the National Maternity Hospital, Dr Rhona Mahony, who is involved in an intense stand-off with St Vincent's Healthcare Group.
A new national maternity hospital is earmarked to be built on the campus of St Vincent's, but Dr Mahony said it has to maintain its own corporate governance.
In a new development, the two other masters have come out strongly in favour of maternity hospitals maintaining independence after re-location.
Both the Rotunda and the Coombe, which are due to move to new locations, have now put down a marker that they will also be insisting on holding on to their corporate governance.
The Rotunda is due to move to Connolly Hospital campus and the Coombe is earmarked for St James's Hospital.
In a strongly worded letter the three masters said the national maternity strategy, launched earlier this year, supports the retention of the system of masters with an executive and board.
It has "served women well in 260 years" and produced good clinical outcomes, they added. Their intervention was a clear signal that any similar interference with their autonomy when they eventually move will not be tolerated.
Meanwhile, Tom Lynch, chair of the Ireland East Hospital Group, which includes St Vincent's and the national maternity hospital, appealed to them to allow for further mediation by the independent mediator appointed by the Department of Health.
Mr Lynch supports the St Vincent's Hospital proposal to integrate the governance of the maternity hospital.
However, the failure of the outgoing government to legislate to give any legal powers to hospital groups means they have little say in this kind of dispute. Ireland East's precise legal standing is unclear.