National Maternity Hospital land to be safe from repossession

Once State signs lease, bank cannot seize St Vincent’s site for duration of up to 149 years

Site of the new National Maternity Hospital on Sisters of Charity Land at St Vincent’s University Hospital: The Government and St Vincent’s have said all medical procedures legal in the State will be available, including those that run contrary to Catholic ethos, such as termination of pregnancy. Photograph: Colin Keegan

Site of the new National Maternity Hospital on Sisters of Charity Land at St Vincent’s University Hospital: The Government and St Vincent’s have said all medical procedures legal in the State will be available, including those that run contrary to Catholic ethos, such as termination of pregnancy. Photograph: Colin Keegan

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Land for the new National Maternity Hospital will be protected from repossession by a bank which holds a charge over it for up to 149 years – once a lease is signed by the State for the site.

This will apply for the length of the lease – an initial 99 years, which can be extended by a further 50-year period, St Vincent’s Hospital Group said in a statement on Friday.

Bank of Ireland has a general lien on St Vincent’s assets, which relates to borrowings the hospital undertook to develop the private hospital on its campus.

The lender will also not have a charge over the hospital building, St Vincent’s said. A spokeswoman for the hospital group said the bank had approved the draft land lease agreement which would see the State lease the land.

“Once this lease agreement is signed, the bank cannot take ownership of the site for the duration of the lease. The State will own the building and the bank will have no charge over it,” the group said.

Ideological issues

A bitter and complex row over the future of the €800 million project shows no signs of abating. It centres on the provision of services, the ownership of land for the scheme, and principled and ideological issues. A protest is to be held at Leinster House on Saturday, demanding that the hospital be in public ownership and built on public land.

Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith, one of the organisers of the protest, said there was a demand for a separation of church and State in a broad sense, and for a health service “that’s free from what the State has done for years, relying on the religious orders to deliver health and disability services”.

Construction of the new hospital will see existing buildings demolished, and significant overlap between the two facilities, St Vincent’s said on Friday. It continues to argue for the corporate structure proposed in the 2016 agreement on the project.

“Floors in the new building have both NMH and SVUH clinical and non-clinical facilities, and integrated patient care can only be provided under an integrated ownership and governance structure.

Legal procedures

“At its simplest level, if each hospital is owned and governed separately – at what point on the corridor between the two hospitals does the patient transfer from the care of one hospital to the care of another?” The group said service corridors for the whole campus run through the NMH building, and if it were owned by another entity, these could be affected.

The Government and St Vincent’s have said all medical procedures legal in the State will be available at the new hospital, including those that run contrary to Catholic ethos, such as termination of pregnancy. Meetings between Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly and the main stakeholders in the project are being organised, but are understood not to have taken place yet.

On Friday, a Prof Donal Brennan, consultant obstetrician at the National Maternity Hospital, said he had never encountered a situation “where I’ve not been able to perform any procedure which is legal within the eyes of the law of the State, and which is in the woman’s best interests”.

A senior clinical management source in the hospital said that senior consultants in the hospital did not support the views of its former master, Peter Boylan, who has been among the most prominent campaigners against the move to the Vincent’s campus.