HSE board members reiterate concerns over National Maternity Hospital

State would be better served by owning land hospital is built on, letter to committee says

Two members of the HSE board have reiterated their concerns about the planned relocation of the National Maternity Hospital and said the State would be better served by owning the land the hospital is built on.

They also expressed concerns around governance and ethos, in a move which adds further pressure on the Government amid controversy over the proposed relocation of the hospital from Holles Street to the St Vincent’s hospital campus.

The site of the proposed new hospital was owned by the Religious Sisters of Charity, who has transferred its shareholding to a new company, St Vincent’s Holdings CLG. The land for the new hospital is to be leased to the State for 299 years.

In a letter to the Oireachtas Committee on Health, Prof Deirdre Madden and Dr Sarah McLoughlin said they believed there should be "absolute clarity on the separation of Church and State" notwithstanding the transfer of shares from the Religious Sisters of Charity to a new company, St Vincent's Holdings.

“This would be better achieved if the State owned the land on which the hospital was built.”

They said the claim from St Vincent’s that they must own the land for the delivery of integrated patient care is “unsatisfactory” and “runs contrary to the argument that the location of the underlying freehold ownership has no bearing on the governance or operation of the hospital”.

Meanwhile, there is growing unease within Fine Gael and the Green Party about the deal.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly and his officials gave a private briefing to Fine Gael TDs and Senators where he was asked to delay bringing the memo on the deal to Cabinet for another period, potentially two weeks, to allow for a fuller public debate.

Sources at the meeting said there were questions asked about the use of the term “clinically appropriate” in relation to what procedures will be allowed at the hospital, and that additional clarifications was sought.

Another source said there were concerns expressed about losing the faith of the public at such a late stage, while others said they wanted to hear from the St Vincent’s Group.

It is understood that some in Fine Gael feel there is still a chance the Government will not get the deal over the line.

Mr Donnelly then briefed a Green Party meeting, where there was also a push to clarify the term “clinically appropriate”, with continuing unease over the State ownership of the site.

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

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