Tallaght University Hospital has said that any decision about the future location of the National Maternity Hospital is a matter for Government.
While the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar yesterday said he was not aware of any move to examine alternative sites for the Holles Street hospital, other Government sources said that an alternative plan would be needed if the deal with St Vincent’s hospital falls through.
The State wants to own the land the unit will be built on, while the St Vincent’s Hospital Group (SVHG) has said it must retain the ownership.
A spokesman for Tallaght University Hospital said they would not be commenting on the reports that it could be a potential site for the project. “Tallaght University Hospital have no comment to make on the relocation of the National Maternity Hospital as this is a decision to be made by Government.”
The former master of the National Maternity Hospital Peter Boylan has also said that a possible move to Tallaght was broached by Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris during a private conversation last Saturday.
Discussing a potential plan B, a number of sources also separately mentioned both Tallaght and Connolly Hospital Blanchardstown as options.
Speaking in the Dáil on Thursday, Mr Varadkar said: “I am not aware of any plans to look at alternative sites for the National Maternity Hospital. The Government considered it some time ago and decided, for good, clinical, patient-safety and patient-quality reasons, that all four maternity hospitals should be relocated and co-located with adult hospitals.”
“That is the case in Limerick, with University Maternity Hospital moving to the Dooradoyle site. It is also the case with the Rotunda Hospital moving to the Connolly Hospital and the tri-location of the Coombe with the children’s and adult hospitals in St James’s Hospital. The most obvious and best fit for Holles Street and the National Maternity Hospital, notwithstanding the enormous complications, is St Vincent’s hospital.”
There have also been concerns about religious ethos which Mr Varadkar said the Government is having “double checked” after questions from Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall yesterday.
“We have clear legal advice that the draft legal framework ensures that all legally permissible medical services will be provided in the new hospital and we are having that double checked at present.”
The Tánaiste also said that in 2017 and 2018, two memos for information were brought to government. “No memo for decision was brought to government, and no memo decision has yet been brought to government. Therefore, a Government decision on the lease and on the governance aspect has yet to be made.”
“On the 99-year lease, the Government was not satisfied with that, which is why negotiations continued and why the idea of a further 50-year extension was proposed. That matter is far from concluded,” Mr Varadkar said.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly is due to meet SVHG and the Religious Sisters of Charity in the coming days in an attempt to find a way forward for the project.
The site is owned by the Sisters of Charity, who are to transfer ownership to a new entity, St Vincent’s Holdings, which will in turn lease the land to the State.