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Nuns would not have controlled new hospital, says Kearns

NMH deputy chairman condemns ‘inaccurate’ assertions about transfer to St Vincent’s

Nicholas Kearns, deputy chairman of the National Maternity Hospital: takes particular issue with former master of the NMH Dr Peter Boylan. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

National Maternity Hospital deputy chairman Nicholas Kearns has sought to draw a line under the controversy about its planned transfer to St Vincent’s by urging people to put “past differences” aside and support the project.

Writing in Tuesday’s Irish Times, he says much of what has been written about the project in recent weeks has been “to put it mildly, inaccurate”.

Assertions made by those opposed to the project were unnecessary, unfounded, inaccurate and offensive, according to Mr Kearns.

He takes particular issue with former NMH master Dr Peter Boylan for giving “as close to the direct opposite of an accurate summary as one can get” about the arrangements that will apply when the maternity hospital moves to the St Vincent’s campus.

Resistance to the project has been largely driven by the claims that the new hospital would be controlled by nuns, according to Mr Kearns.

‘Planning their withdrawal’

“The recent announcement that the Sisters of Charity have been planning their withdrawal from Irish healthcare over the past two years further demonstrated that this claim was not correct. But the new hospital had its clinical independence guaranteed regardless.”

The new company that will run the maternity hospital when it moves to St Vincent’s will have four directors from the NMH, four from St Vincent’s and one independent director. This person will be an international expert in obstetrics, chosen from a list agreed between the two hospitals, he says.

“Therefore, the repeated assertion from a number of quarters that this director will give control of the new board to St Vincent’s – and act as some mere cipher of St Vincent’s – is both offensive and nonsense.”

Mr Kearns also attacks the “serious and inaccurate assertion” by Dr Boylan that the new NMH board would have no role in the clinical governance of the new maternity hospital and that its future master will be relegated to the “fourth tier” of management in St Vincent’s. This is “as close to the direct opposite of an accurate summary as one can get”.

‘Governance powers’

“The NMH never sought campus governance powers, which remain with St Vincent’s Hospital Group. This is entirely logical when the new maternity hospital will form only a segment of the St Vincent’s campus. To suggest otherwise is counterintuitive, illogical and wrong.”

The agreement between the two hospitals mediated by Kieran Mulvey last November was not a secret deal, as has been claimed, but has been published, he says.

The agreement provides for the drawing-up of detailed legal instruments putting it into effect. Mr Kearns says it is puzzling for Dr Boylan and others to claim the governors of the NMH have not agreed to these. “Of course they haven’t: those legal instruments have not yet been finalised and the planning process is still under way.”

The governors will be briefed on the project at an agm later this month, and the legal instruments will be put to them for approval when these are prepared, he says.

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