New National Maternity Hospital to be owned by the State
St Vincent’s group will retain ownership of the site of the facility under new proposals
Planning permission granted by An Bord Pleanála clears the way for the €300m new National Maternity Hospital project to proceed.
The National Maternity Hospital (NMH) is to remain in State ownership after it is built on the St Vincent’s hospital campus in south Dublin, under proposals being finalised to resolve the long-running dispute over its move from Holles Street.
While the building will be State-owned, the land on which it is constructed will remain the property of the St Vincent’s Hospital Group (SVHG), which is controlled by the Sisters of Charity.
There is no agreement yet in talks between the Department of Health and SVHG on whether the State would pay a rent to the order for the use of the site, The Irish Times understands.
An Bord Pleanála has granted planning permission for the construction of the maternity hospital on a site in the middle of the St Vincent’s hospital campus. The 10-year permission was granted unanimously by the board on Thursday without the imposition of any major planning conditions.
The approval clears the way for the €300 million project to proceed, provided agreement is reached between the department and the two hospitals on the ownership issue.
Under the agreement expected to be finalised within weeks, the State will licence the new hospital for use by the NMH. This will preserve the existing voluntary status of the institution.
“The key piece of this deal is that the hospital building will remain in State ownership and not on the balance sheet of SVHG,” according to a source close to the negotiations. “This was the key ask of many who expressed concern about a public asset not being on the State’s book.”
The long-delayed project became the focus of intense controversy earlier this year after it emerged that the new hospital, though funded by the State, would be owned by the Sisters of Charity through its ownership of SVHG. Minister for Health Simon Harris asked for a month to explore all options for the ownership of the hospital.
The issue of potential religious ownership of the project was effectively defused when the order announced in May it was withdrawing from involvement in SVHG. Under new arrangements, the public and private hospitals at St Vincent’s will be owned by a new, lay-only board. It remains unclear whether this body is answerable to any other group.
The proposals for resolving the issue have emerged from talks convened by department secretary general Jim Breslin with SVHG.