Decision to approve NMH move criticised as ‘bad day for Ireland’ and ‘mistake’

Deal unchanged following intense debate over ownership and ethos of new hospital

The Government decision to approve the agreement to move the National Maternity Hospital (NMH) to the St Vincent's Hospital campus has been criticised as a "bad day for Ireland", a "slap in the face" to women and a "mistake" by Opposition politicians.

The agreement to move the hospital from Holles Street to the Elm Park campus in Dublin 4 is unchanged following a fortnight of intense debate over the ownership and ethos of the new hospital.

The plans were brought before Cabinet by Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly two weeks ago but a decision was deferred amid concern from some Fine Gael and Green ministers at the proposals.

Cabinet signed off on the proposals on Tuesday.

Róisín Shorthall, the Social Democrats coleader said the “unfortunate decision” means that “the last couple of weeks have been a charade”.

She said: “We were told that there was a pause in order to reflect on this” but claimed: “the government hasn’t acted in good faith because they haven’t taken on board ... any of the concerns that have been raised”.

She said it is a "bad day" for Ireland, women's health, accountability and Sláintecare - the cross party plan to reform the health service.

She said the decisions “raises huge questions about the government’s commitment to developing a proper public health service because this is completely at variance with the commitments in Sláintecare.”

Ms Shortall asked: "Why are they [the Government] effectively gifting an €800 million euro hospital to a private entity irrespective of whether that entity is Catholic or otherwise?"

She questioned by the contentious phrase in the agreement that “clinically appropriate” services would be provided at the hospital had not been defined as parties to the deal had indicated they were not opposed to this.

Decision

People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith claimed the decision “is a slap in the face for the women of Ireland”.

She said the NMH will “allegedly take care of all our reproductive rights and it is not publicly owned”.

Ms Smith said: “The last two weeks were really a theatre rather than any genuine attempt to engage the Opposition or to address or assuage people’s concerns.”

Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane urged TDs, especially those from Government parties, to support a motion to be debated in the Dáil on Tuesday calling for the new hospital to be built on publicly owned land. He said the motion put forward by his party also calls for other maternity hospitals to be resourced "properly".

Mr Cullinane said there have been concerns over “ambiguity” in the text of the agreement to move the NMH “which we were told would be resolved, but yet, all we have is letters of comfort”.

He said there seems to be no changes to the constitution of the new hospital and that the Government is “ploughing ahead”.

“We believe that’s a mistake,” he said.

Mr Cullinane said, “we want to build a new national maternity hospital” but Sinn Féin wants to “get it right” so that “post-Sláintecare we do end up with a new hospital, publicly owned, publicly managed on public lands, delivering services for women, for patients, but also protecting the interests of the taxpayer”.