Humphreys says she will now support National Maternity Hospital plan

Minister for Social Protection was one of the Ministers who expressed concern with plan

The prospect of the Cabinet approving the new National Maternity Hospital was given a major boost on Saturday when one of the Ministers who raised concerns about the project said she was now supporting the plan.

Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys was one of a number of Fine Gael and Green Ministers who expressed concerns about the extent of the new hospital's independence from religious influence at a Cabinet meeting last Wednesday.

Their intervention led to a two week delay to consider a number of documents before Cabinet takes a final decision on the plan.

A second Minister who raised concerns at Cabinet over the plans said on Wednesday she was open to approving the proposal once the matter had been scrutinised by TDs and Senators.

The new NMH will be located on the grounds of St Vincent's Hospital in Donnybrook, which was formerly run by the religious order, the Sisters of Charity. Both Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly have insisted the new hospital will have no religious influence.

Speaking on Saturday Ms Humphreys said her concerns had been allayed and she would back the project.

She was speaking to reporters during a Fine Gael conference in Tullamore where Tánaiste Leo Varadkar also strongly supported the commencement of the NMH on this site.

He said any other options at this stage were “uncertain” and would take many years to get over the line.

Ms Humphreys said: "Collectively we made a decision at Cabinet last week to give two weeks so that we could have that debate and who could go before the joint Oireachtas committee.

She said the current location of the NMH at Holles Street had gone past its sell-by-date and it was important to “move this on now as quickly as we can”.

The Tánaiste said he was very supportive of the project.

“The prize really here is a hospital where every woman has a single ensuite room, and gets the dignity she deserves.

“Really important issues around infection control are dealt with. There will be five theatres. Think of the difference that will make in terms of gynaecology, waiting lists, neonatal ICU.”

He said it would be a hospital where patients could be moved from one end to the other in ten minutes, and that a major adult hospital was next door for emergency procedures in all disciplines.

“That’s the prize and that can be achieved within the next few years on the same site.

“Anything else is very uncertain. If we were to choose a standalone site somewhere else, it would certainly take years, we wouldn’t achieve co-location, we wouldn’t achieve the best outcomes for women and children. It would certainly cost more

“…So what we have here is an opportunity, which is very, very good. And then there are alternatives that may not be possible to deliver. And that’s a choice that we have to make,” he said.

Ms Humphreys said it was important the hospital went ahead. She said the week had given everybody a chance to discuss the issues around which there were concerns.

"There are many out there who are concerned and we've been able to allay those fears and when you hear Dr Rhona Mahoney and Prof Shane Higgins coming out and they are talking about why it's so important that it is going ahead. I think we should listen to them because they are the medics at the end of the day."