Minister welcomes ‘historic decision’ by nuns to end role in maternity hospital

Sisters of Charity say they will end involvement in new hospital on St Vincent’s campus

Minister for Health Simon Harris has welcomed the decision by the Sisters of Charity to end their involvement in St Vincent’s Hospital and the planned new national maternity hospital.

Mr Harris described the announcement by the nuns as “a very significant development” for healthcare and added that the timing of “this historic decision” was very welcome.

“It directly addresses concerns regarding the question of religious influence in the new National Maternity Hospital (NMH) and further illustrates the constructive role of the sisters to facilitate this landmark project.”

The Minister said his officials were continuing to engage with St Vincent’s and the NMH about the project and he planned to update Government on progress next week.


In a statement on Monday, the Sisters of Charity announced they were to end their involvement in St Vincent’s Healthcare Group (SVHG) and will have no involvement in the new national maternity hospital on its campus.

Ownership of the St Vincent’s group is to be transferred to a newly-formed company with charitable status to be called “St Vincent’s”, according to a statement from the order.

It said the Sisters of Charity would have no involvement with this new company.

Medical codes

Existing codes governing medical ethics at the St Vincent’s would be amended and replaced to reflect compliance with national and international best practice guidelines and the laws of Ireland, the order continued.

Under the changes, the shares in SVHG will be transferred to St Vincent’s for a nominal/ or “peppercorn” consideration. The Sisters of Charity will no longer have a right to appoint directors to the board of St Vincent’s and the two sisters currently on the board will resign “with immediate effect”.

The new company “will not be subject to undue influence by individuals or from any source,” according to the statement, and “St Vincent’s” will not seek to generate any profit or surplus, or remunerate directors for their work.

“The SVHG Board, management and staff will continue to provide acute healthcare services that foster Mary Aikenhead’s core values of dignity, compassion, justice, quality and advocacy,” the statement by Sr Mary Christian, congregational leader of the order, read.

“They will ensure that the three hospitals in SVHG can continue to meet the needs of their patients and families, so that every individual can always access the care and treatment they need to achieve health and well-being.”

Directors of the new company “will will be true to the values of our Foundress, recognising the right of everyone to access the care and treatment they need to achieve the best possible health care outcomes, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, gender or personal means,” the statement added.

Commercial terms

Under the plan, ownership of a part of the St Vincent’s campus - the site of the former private hospital - is to be sold to SVHG on commercial terms. This land is currently rented out.

St Vincent’s will initially have a transition board for up to one year. Members will include James Mention, current SVHG chairman; and SVHG directors Sharen McCabe John Compton and Frank O’Riordan.

A full board will then be appointed, with expertise in law, finance, healthcare and social care. “They will be committed to upholding the vision and values of Mary Aikenhead,” according to SVHG.

SVHG chairman James Menton, said: “These are major developments, and reflect the wonderful legacy to Irish healthcare of the Sisters of Charity. The Sisters have always held the highest ambitions for the provision of world class healthcare services in Ireland and have successfully achieved and sustained this.

“They also see the need for the proposed development of the new National Maternity Hospital integrated within the Elm Park campus and want to do everything possible to ensure this vital facility for mothers and babies is developed as quickly as possible.

“The board, management and 4,000 staff of SVHG are also absolutely committed to upholding the vision and values of Mary Aikenhead - namely dignity, compassion, justice, quality and advocacy - which result in the best possible outcomes for our patients and their families”, he added.

In the event of the liquidation or wind-up of St. Vincent’s at any time in the future, any surplus assets arising will be vested with the Charitable Regulator and used for healthcare purposes and facilities “with similar values”.

Prof Chris Fitzpatrick, a former member of project board overseeing the relocation of the maternity hospital from Holles Street, was among those to welcome the decision.

“In relinquishing their involvement in the ownership and management of the National Maternity Hospital that will be built on the campus of St Vincent’s University Hospital, the Sisters of Charity have made a decision in the best interests of Irish women in the national interest and this should now be acknowledged.”

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is a former heath editor of The Irish Times.