Hospital’s position on procedures must be clarified, says professor

Prof Michael O’Keefe says in his experience, nuns ‘ran a superb service’ in hospitals

The board of St Vincent's Healthcare Group needs to clarify the position of the new National Maternity Hospital according to consultant ophthalmologist Professor Michael O'Keefe.

Prof O’Keefe, who has worked in the health system for over 30 years, said the board must make clear that procedures such as sterilisation, terminations and IVF would be able to be carried out at the new hospital.

"What needs to happen in my opinion is that the board of Vincent's, whether they represent the nuns or not, they need to come out and say 'this hospital is truly independent even though the church holds a view on sterilisation, on terminations, on IVF, we will in no way interfere. Our view obviously is the church's teaching but we will in no way interfere with the decisions'. If they say that, it will diffuse it," he told RTÉ's Marian Finucane show.

He added: “As regards owning the building - I’m not sure that’s a big issue”.


“As I understand it, the nuns in Vincent’s own the Vincent’s public hospital, that’s not a problem. The nuns own the site in Vincent’s. So there may be other issues legally as regards the site,” he said.

Prof O’Keefe, who was based in the Mater hospital, said nuns had been given a hard time lately.

“When I came back here the nuns were in the Mater private, the Mater public and Temple Street and they ran a really good show. So I think we’re beginning to hit them a bit hard,” he said.

“The nuns have been a force for good in my opinion. They ran a superb service. When they left - look at the scene we have. We’ve dirty hospitals, dysfunctional hospitals, nobody in charge.”

Prof O’Keefe said he isn’t a “churchgoer” or “cheerleader” for the church “but I think it needs to be said”.

He was also critical of the treatment of Irish nurses, with a recent survey indicating that 78 per cent of nurses and midwives who are due to qualify this year, are planning to work abroad. He said “we use and abuse our nurses for years”.

Prof O’Keefe said that he had witnessed nurses at Temple Street Hospital asleep in the cars an hour or two before they were due to start their shift in order to secure a parking space.

He also said that we need a Minister for Health “who’s in charge” to “get rid of all these quangos”.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times