Dáil told compulsory purchase of maternity hospital site remains an option

Tánaiste calls for ‘open minds’ on ‘best option’ for ownership of site for new hospital

Labour TD Ivana Bacik told the Dáil there was ‘deep frustration’ about the ‘tortuous negotiations’.

Labour TD Ivana Bacik told the Dáil there was ‘deep frustration’ about the ‘tortuous negotiations’.

 

Negotiations on the ownership and governance of the National Maternity Hospital on its proposed move to the St Vincent’s hospital campus are due to resume “shortly” the Dáil has been told.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the Government has not ruled out a compulsory purchase of the land on which the hospital will be built.

Such a purchase was “not as straightforward as people might think,” he said adding that people need to keep an open mind on the best option.

He warned the outcome of such a purchase might not be guaranteed, it would certainly result in further delay and add to the €800 million cost of the facility.

And comparing it to the tiny South African state of Lesotho, he said the site was “a piece of land surrounded more or less on all sides”, by St Vincent’s hospital.

Tánaiste also insisted he was “determined” the hospital should be built at the St Vincent’s hospital campus and ruled out suggestions of alternative locations.

“There isn’t a better alternative site that provides co-location with a hospital with the facilities and standards it has,” and it was the right decision to co-locate and I’m determined that we should go ahead with that”.

Mr Varadkar was responding during Leaders’ Questions to Labour TD Ivana Bacik who said there was “deep frustration” about the “tortuous negotiations” and this needed to be addressed urgently.

She asked what the Government had done since June when it last updated the House.

Ms Bacik warned the Government is in danger of “sleep-walking into the default position” that the State has done for so long with many education and health institutions, of allowing a religious order or its “front company”, St Vincent’s Holdings, to hold onto the land the €800 million hospital will be built on.

“I think that’s simply not good enough for women’s health care in Ireland in the 21st century,” she said.

“I’m asking for the clarity that the State will not simply prefer to own the land” but that something urgent will be done to ensure that the state “will in fact own the land on which the new hospital is to be built”.

The newly elected TD also said she had “huge concerns” about clinical independence of the hospital if the State did not own the land and said that a CPO could be used.

Mr Varadkar said he was not ruling it out but warned that it was not a guaranteed outcome.

“We need to have an open mind as to what the best option is”, he said as he pointed to countries with “very strong public health service” such as Britain, Germany and France where “it is actually not that unusual for hospitals to be owned by a voluntary body by a charity by a private company”.

In the talks to resume between all stakeholders the Tánaiste said there were a number of outstanding issues including representation of the State on the board, governance and the lease.

And he insisted that the Government had “red lines” including a “cast-iron legal guarantee” that all medical services legal in the State including terminations and reproductive treatments would be available.

Ms Bacik also raised ongoing concerns about the “unduly restrictive practices” still in place at some maternity units on the partners of pregnant women being allowed to attend with them.

The Tánaiste said it was the Government and HSE’s view that partners should be able to attend for labour and for scans.

He said it was not the case in a small number of units for local reasons and local managers and physicians should be allowed “to make local decisions in certain circumstances”.