St Vincent’s says NMH will carry out any legal procedure after transfer

Peter Boylan ‘not going to resign’ over maternity hospital criticisms as board split over calls to stand down

The future location of the National Maternity Hospital has been cast in doubt over the space of a week. The €300 million project would have placed sole ownership of the hospital under the Sisters of Charity. Paul Cullen reports. Video: Enda O'Dowd

 

The board of St Vincent’s hospital has said the National Maternity Hospital (NMH) will carry out any medical procedure that is legal after it transfers to its campus.

In a statement, the board accused former master of the NMH Dr Peter Boylan of “continued misinformation and untruthful allegations” about the medical care women will receive when the NMH transfers from Holles Street.

“Continuing to suggest that procedures currently undertaken at NMH will not be available in the new maternity hospital is entirely false and without foundation,” according to the statement from James Mention, chairman of the board of St Vincent’s Healthcare Group (SVHG).

“In line with current policy and procedures at SVHG, any medical procedure which is in accordance with the laws of the Republic of Ireland will be carried out at the new hospital.”

The SVHG chairman said the primary concern of the two hospital was the delivery of a modern maternity service that was woman and infant-centred, and safe.

The clinical independence of the hospital would be enshrined in last November’s agreement between the two institutions, which provides for the provision of patient services “without religious, ethnic or other distinction”.

He said the board noted recent media reports in which the Department of Education confirmed that St Vincent’s shareholders, the Religious Sisters of Charity, do not have any outstanding liabilities to the taxpayer relating to the redress scheme for survivors of institutional abuse.

Harris welcome

Minister for Health Simon Harris welcomed confirmation by the board that that any medical procedure which is in accordance with the laws of this State will be carried out at the new hospital.

He said he would arrange meetings with the hospitals shortly. He said he would report to Government on the project at the end of May when he expects to have further details on the legal and other arrangements publicly

“This will allow for the necessary clarity to be publicly available well in advance of contractual or other commitments being entered into in respect of this project,” he said.

‘Not going to resign’

Earlier Dr Boylan said he is not going to resign from the hospital’s board despite a request to stand down.

The hospital’s deputy chairman, former High Court president Nicholas Kearns, has asked Dr Boylan to resign from the board, a NMH spokesman confirmed last night.

“I’m not going to resign, I don’t feel I should. There is a question of loyalty to the board. I feel a loyalty to the women of Ireland and I believe that granting ownership of the national maternity hospital to the Catholic church is wrong,” Dr Boylan said on Tuesday.

It also emerged on Tuesday that one member of the board claims he was not consulted about the decision to call for Dr Boylan’s resignation. Micheál Mac Donncha, who is a county councillor for Sinn Féin, said the decision to ask for Dr Boylan’s resignation is “unacceptable”. He said Dr Boylan “has every right to speak out”.

Dr Boylan last week expressed strong reservations about the agreement reached last November between St Vincent’s and the NMH. The maternity hospital is due to move to the St Vincent’s site as part of a €300 million project under the sole ownership of the Sisters of Charity.

He has argued that the Catholic ethos of St Vincent’s would interfere with the independent operation of a maternity hospital.

It is understood the decision to seek Dr Boylan’s resignation was supported by the current master, Dr Rhona Mahony, who is Dr Boylan’s sister-in-law.

Text messages

Mr Kearns had called for Dr Boylan’s resignation following an exchange of text messages on Sunday. Dr Boylan had initiated the exchange with a text message to both Mr Kearns and Dr Mahony in which he urged them to “sit down and talk”.

Dr Boylan said he felt they had been misled by the St Vincent’s Hospital Group when they accepted their bona fides on the issue of independence and ownership. He told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland serious questions had to be asked about governance. Dr Boylan said “passion has taken the place of common sense” on the issue. “I’m saying ‘don’t do it’ in the current form unless the land is owned by the State.”

Later, speaking to the Pat Kenny Show, Dr Boylan said he may step down from the board at a later date. “If it goes ahead in the current format then I will resign.”

While Dr Boylan said he had abstained when the move was initially discussed by the board, he explained that was out of loyalty to the National Maternity Hospital as the majority of the board voted overwhelmingly in favour of the move.

He is awaiting a meeting of the governors of the hospital, which is due to take place tomorrow evening.

Cllr Mac Donncha, a member of the hospital’s board, said he voted for the agreement initially but now had “grave concerns” following developments over recent days.

The board does not have the power to force Dr Boylan to resign, according to sources.

Wobble

Dr Boylan added that with four out of the nine board members of the new maternity hospital coming from St Vincent’s board, it would take only one person “to wobble” and then the hospital could find that it could not perform certain procedures and would have to send patients to the Rotunda or the Coombe hospitals.

Dr Mahony, however, has maintained the agreement provides for the operational, financial and clinical independence of the maternity hospital.

A spokesman for the NMH said in a statement to The Irish Times last night that: “Last week, some five months after the agreement was approved, Boylan, without warning, consultation with or notification to the board, its chair or the master of the hospital, went public in attacking the agreement.”

The hospital said Dr Boylan was a member of the NMH board at all times during the six-month period of mediation which resulted in the agreement to co-locate the NMH with St Vincent’s hospital. The board was kept fully briefed on all developments by the negotiating team during that period, the statement said.

“The decisive final meeting of the board overwhelmingly supported the agreement with 25 in favour, two abstentions (including Dr Boylan) and one vote against. Thereafter the agreement was approved by Government and planning permission was lodged.”