The preference of the Government is to own the site proposed for the new National Maternity Hospital on the St Vincent's campus in south Dublin, the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said.
Mr Donnelly said on Sunday that he would be engaging with both the Religious Sisters of Charity and the St Vincent's Healthcare Group on the issue. He believed that St Vincent's remained the best location for the proposed new €800 million maternity facility.
The Minister also said that extent of the proposed lease of the site which had been offered to the State had been increased from 99 years to 149 years.
Mr Donnelly told RTÉ Radio's This Week programme that while his department and the HSE were "pouring over the legals to make sure that the full independence of the maternity hospital is bulletproof, nonetheless, my strong preference is that the State owns the site".
He said even if the full independence of the planned new hospital was secured through the contract with the State, “it would still be preferable to own the site”.
Mr Donnelly said his predecessor as Minister for Health, Simon Harris, did try to secure ownership of the site at the St Vincent's campus but that this had not been possible at the time.
The Minister also said that if the State owned the site the proposed elaborate governance arrangements for the new maternity hospital would also change potentially.
Mr Donnelly told the programme that he would “not be bringing any recommendation to Government for this hospital if there is not absolute certainty on the clinical and operational independence of it”.
He said all the services that were currently provided in the existing National Maternity Hospital at Holles St would be provided in the planned new facility.
Separately, Mr Donnelly said he had asked the Department of Health and the HSE to draw up plans for a major comprehensive vaccination programme to come into effect this coming autumn and winter.
He said the country would be looking at probably the biggest flu vaccination programme ever and in addition the health service had to provide catch-up vaccinations in areas such as HPV as well as normal school-based immunisations.
He said there would also be ongoing Covid-19 vaccinations and if any variants materialised these may need to be augmented.
He said booster Covid-19 shots could form part of such a programme.
Mr Donnelly also said that he had sought authorities in Northern Ireland to provide details of passengers arriving in Belfast from Britain who had a final destination in the Republic. However, he said the Minister for Health in Northern Ireland, Robin Swann, had said such information was not collected as it was considered to be an internal border.