Sunday 21 January 2018

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

St Vincent’s Hospital in south Dublin, run by the Sisters of Charity, was chosen as the site of the new National Maternity Hospital Picture: PA
St Vincent’s Hospital in south Dublin, run by the Sisters of Charity, was chosen as the site of the new National Maternity Hospital Picture: PA
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

If not the St Vincent's campus, then where else can a new National Maternity Hospital be built?

The truth is the options are now very narrow with places already booked for the transfer of the other two stand-alone maternity hospitals, the Rotunda and the Coombe.

The ideal has to remain building it next to an acute hospital. This will ensure seamless care for women who have serious complications before and after birth.

Already it has been decided that the Rotunda Hospital will move to the Connolly Hospital campus. And the Coombe maternity has a location earmarked on the St James's Hospital site.

St Vincent's Hospital's campus, just a few miles from where the National Maternity Hospital is situated, is ideal. But the strings attached to the move, and what many see as the hovering presence of the Catholic ethos, have led to many calls to just walk away from the deal. So where else in Dublin could act as an alternative?

There is the Mater Hospital, owned by the Sisters of Mercy, which has spare land. It was originally earmarked for the National Children's Hospital but failed to win planning permission.

The Sisters of Mercy were willing to transfer ownership of the site of the new National Children's Hospital to the State.

This meant that it would be wholly State-owned.

In the case of St Vincent's, the Sisters of Charity will maintain ownership of the site of the maternity hospital.

It means that in turn they are will be owners of the maternity hospital.

When the Coombe moves to St James's and the Rotunda to Connolly, there will be no such debate about ethos.

Both are owned by the State and are just subject to the laws of the land and no religious policy.

Siting the National Maternity Hospital in the Mater would probably lead to objections because it is currently so near the Rotunda maternity hospital. However, given that the Rotunda will move to Dublin west, it may have some merit.

The National Maternity Hospital and the Mater are currently in the same group, the Ireland East Hospital Group, a ready-made network.

The other alternative is Tallaght Hospital in south Dublin, which has a pluralist tradition.

However, it is part of the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group. So that would appear to rule it out.

Beaumont Hospital comes unencumbered by religious ethos but it is part of the RCSI Hospital Group which again is part of another network.

If all fails, what about a greenfield site? Lands which are being sold by RTÉ, which is not far from St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin 4, have been mentioned.

But this would contradict the best practice imperative to co-locate the maternity hospital with a major acute hospital.

This is the best model of care for mothers and part of the national maternity strategy.

Rebuilding these hospitals on acute hospital campus sites is seen as safer for mothers and ensure access to a full range of specialised services like intensive care, cardiology and other specialties when needed, without necessitating patient transfer.

Outside of Dublin, all maternity units are part of acute hospitals.

In Cork, the maternity hospital is near the acute Cork University Hospital.

The current stand-alone model of maternity hospitals in Dublin is outside the international norm.

The way forward is co-location, wherever that will eventually be.

Irish Independent

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