HSE board members restate concerns over National Maternity Hospital

Prof Deirdre Madden and Dr Sarah McLoughlin dissent from HSE decision

Two members of the HSE board have restated their concerns about the planned relocation of the National Maternity Hospital.

In a letter to the Oireachtas Committee on Health, Professor Deirdre Madden and Dr Sarah McLoughlin explained this evening why they dissented from a HSE decision to approve the legal documents for the move.

They said they believed there should be “absolute clarity on the seperation of Church and State” notwithstanding the transfer of shares from the Religious Sisters of Charity to St Vincent’s.

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


They said the statement from St Vincent’s that they must own the land is “unsatisfactory.” They also expressed concerns about governance.

They said they were conscious of the need for the relocation and they respected the decision of the board.

The site of the proposed new hospital at Elm Park in Dublin was owned by the Religious Sisters of Charity, who have transferred their 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.

Growing unease

There is growing unease on Tuesday night among some members of Fine Gael and the Green Party about the deal.

The 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 to Cabinet for another period, potentially two weeks, to allow for a fuller public debate.

Multiple sources at the meeting said there were questions asked about the use of the term “clinically appropriate” in relation to what procedures are allowed, and that there is a push within the party for additional clarifications on this.

A source said that the group were told that this term protected the NMH from any “encroachment” from St Vincent’s Hospital to provide services that wouldn’t normally be provided in a maternity hospital.

Another source said that 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 the party feel there is still a chance the Government will not get the deal over the line.

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

Meanwhile, Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan told RTÉ’s Primetime that she wanted to see “a serious engagement” with the phrase “clinically appropriate”.

She said this could be clarified in an addendum to the legal documents, in terms of what procedures are available, without limiting any one procedure. This would be a “significant improvement” but this would not deal with the ownership issue.

She said the Government should return to the question of buying the land.

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times