Government go-ahead for new National Maternity Hospital ends ethos row

Peter Boylan delighted there will be ‘no possibility of religious ethos influencing clinical care’

National Maternity Hospital (NMH) at the St Vincent’s University Hospital (SVUH) campus, shown in the graphic above.

National Maternity Hospital (NMH) at the St Vincent’s University Hospital (SVUH) campus, shown in the graphic above.

 

A two-year row over the control and ethos of the new National Maternity Hospital appears to have been resolved with a decision by Government to approve the first phase of the €300 million project.

The new hospital on the campus of St Vincent’s hospital will be owned by the State on land leased from St Vincent’s for 99 years.

The Religious Sisters of Charity, who currently own St Vincent’s Healthcare Group, are withdrawing from any involvement, but the Government has agreed to start funding the project in advance of the order completing the legal formalities.

Minister for Health Simon Harris said SVHG had confirmed a process by which the Sisters of Charity will transfer their shareholding and withdraw from the Group.

The Minister said a suite of legal documents to give effect to the agreement reached in principle would be finalised in the New Year and would protect the State’s investment and confirm NMH’s clinical and operational independence.

The decision was welcomed by former NMH master Dr Peter Boylan, one of the staunchest opponents of any transfer that would have handed control to the Sisters of Charity.

Dr Boylan said he was delighted there will be “no possibility of religious ethos influencing clinical care” and welcomed the revision of governance arrangements to “ensure full clinical and operational independence.”

However, Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall said the Minister’s announcement about the proposed arrangements for ownership and control of the new hospital left important questions unanswered.

The Minister had failed to provide the legal details and documents for the fresh assurances he was offering, she said. Given the controversial history of this project, it was important to reserve judgment until the legal frameworks were published in the New Year.

“Ultimately, what today’s announcement means is that the public will still pay around €300million for a new State hospital to be run by a private company which will be a 100 per cent subsidiary of SVHG.”

Mr Harris said the State would own the new hospital which will be operated by a designated activity company (Dac) known as NMH Dac.

The Minister said the overall legal framework would unequivocally, copper-fasten the principle that patient care would be delivered without religious, ethnic or other distinction.

He said “any relevant medical procedure, which is in accordance with the laws of the land, will be carried out at the new hospital”.

Mr Harris said as part of an overall agreement reached there would be a public interest representative on the board of NMH Dac.

Governance Arrangements

He said the Government also received assurances there would be competency-based appointments to the new board. There will also be a review of governance arrangements in the current NMH at Holles St.

As part of the first phase of the development, new car park and pharmacy facilities will be developed.

There had been concerns if these initial elements of the project did not commence before year end, new EU building rules to come into force in early 2019 would have seen the development having to be re-designed at significant additional cost.

The NMH at Holles St said the approval meant construction would begin in 2019.