Move to give minister say in maternity hospital ‘bonkers,’ says Boylan

‘Catholic teaching runs contrary to many of the things that need to be done in maternity’

Dr Peter Boylan former Master of the National Maternity Hospital. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times.

Dr Peter Boylan former Master of the National Maternity Hospital. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times.

 

Moves to give the Minister for Health a casting vote on the board of the new national maternity hospital are “completely bonkers,” the former master of the National Maternity Hospital at Holles Street, Dr Peter Boylan has said.

Dr Boylan resigned last month from the board of the NMH over the Government’s decision to give the St Vincent’s Healthcare Group sole ownership of the hospital when it moves from Holles Street to the Elm Park campus next to St Vincent’s University Hospital.

The group’s shareholders are the Sisters of Charity, a religious congregation which managed residential institutions for children.

According to the agreement reached between the two hospitals the minister of the day will retain a “golden share”.

Under the system, the nominees of the NMH or St Vincent’s will also be able to consult the Minister on any operational matter about which they feel “aggrieved”.

“This is not going to work unless the land on which the hospital is built is not owned by a Catholic religious organisation,” Dr Boylan told the Countess Markievicz School in Dublin on Saturday.

Dr Boylan, who is chairman of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, hit out at the “hypocrisy that we see in the daily life of obstetric practice”.

He said Catholic teaching was of no consequence in general medicine and surgery.

‘Things that need to be done

“What is particularly difficult is the interface between obstetrics and Catholic teaching which runs directly contrary to many of the things that need to be done in maternity and women’s healthcare,” he said.

“It is really the hypocrisy that we see in the daily life of obstetric practice that gets to me, particularly where we have abortion prohibited.

“We can certainly tell women all about it; that they have the right to information and travel for an abortion and that this is protected in our Constitution.”

Dr Boylan said that Catholic teaching directly affects medical choices available to women.

“It beggars belief that anyone thought that would be a runner once it got out into the public domain.

“There is not one hospital in the entire world built on land owned by the Catholic Church that allows contraception, sterilisation, abortion, gender reassignment surgery,” he said.

“There isn’t a single one.”

He pointed to the Mercy Hospital in Melbourne. The clinical director of that hospital, Bernadette White, has given details of the way Catholic ethos determines practice there.

“She was asked about a clinical situation similar to Savita Halappanavar’s, where a woman had ruptured membranes in the very early stages of pregnancy with a very low chance of survival of the baby but a high risk of the mother developing sepsis.

“And she explained very clearly that 5 per cent of women would accept the risks in the hope of having a successful outcome to the pregnancy, but of the 95 per cent of women who did not choose this option, all of them would require transfer out of the hospital to another hospital in the city where they could have their pregnancies terminated and avoid the risk of sepsis.

“That is the reality in a Catholic ethos hospital,” Dr Boylan said.

Dr Boylan said that his own views had changed over the years. “At the beginning of my career I was very conservative, but then as I travelled, to London and after my training I worked in the US.

“Living in more mixed and secular societies with a more mixed culture, I came to understand that things were a lot more complicated then when I was training in the 1970s.”