'We have concerns that must be satisfied over maternity hospital plan'
Preparations to build a new national maternity hospital will remain on hold until major concerns are resolved, James Menton, chair of St Vincent's Healthcare Group, has warned.
The St Vincent's board continues to "pause" its involvement in the project - which will see the National Maternity Hospital moved from its cramped and unsuitable location in Holles Street to a location on the St Vincent's campus.
The €150m new purpose-built facility is due to be ready in 2019.
However, Mr Menton told the Irish Independent: "We have reasonable concerns that need to be satisfied. We need a hospital that is fit for purpose and meets the needs of both hospitals as well as the taxpayer."
Relations have been strained between the St Vincent's board and the Health Service Executive (HSE).
He said that the St Vincent's board "welcomes" and "embraces" the relocation of the maternity hospital to its campus which already has private and public hospitals.
"We have come forward with solutions on how the outstanding issues can be resolved. They can be fixed," he added.
When he became chair, he was concerned at the level of engagement with the body that will apply for planning permission for the new hospital.
The concerns relate to issues such as the impact of the new hospital during its construction and operation. There are concerns it will affect traffic flow, parking and the ability of patients to access St Vincent's public and private hospitals.
"This is not a greenfield site. That is why we decided before the project should go any further we hit the pause button, not the stop button."
He said that when it applied for planning permission the brief must be "fit for purpose".
The group also wants a say in the governance of the new maternity hospital.
The plan was to submit an application for planning permission this summer - but it is unclear if that time frame will now be kept.
Mr Menton said even if it was delayed by a number of months, it would not be significant in the light of such a major project. He has made his views known to the Health Minister Leo Varadkar and the HSE's director of acute hospitals Liam Woods and the National Maternity Hospital.
HSE chief Tony O'Brien has previously claimed he believed the St Vincent's private hospital, owned by the Religious Sisters of Charity, is run on the back of St Vincent's public hospital.
He is to hire forensic accountants to examine the group's finances.
Mr Menton said they would welcome any scrutiny. "We are good value for money and we would be happy for anyone to verify that," he insisted.
"We don't have many private beds in the public hospital. It means there is more capacity to treat sick public patients."
He said the private hospital was "not for profit" and all money was reinvested in facilities for the treatment of patients.
Mr Menton said the group fully intended to continue with its current operating model where its consultants in the public hospital can also work in the private hospital.
He said he would welcome any meeting which would include all parties involved in the planning and operation of the new maternity hospital.