‘Significant milestones’ reached in planned relocation of National Maternity Hospital

Reports reveal extent of planning already gone into relocation from Holles Street to the Elm Park campus

Prof Shane Higgins: he  said that the “current campus will never be fit for purpose”. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Prof Shane Higgins: he said that the “current campus will never be fit for purpose”. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

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A number of “significant milestones” have been reached in the planned relocation of the National Maternity Hospital to St Vincent’s, new documents reveal.

The reports reveal the extent of planning that has already gone into the relocation from Holles Street to the Elm Park campus as the project remains mired in political controversy.

The Government has said that no final decision has been made in relation to the project, and that no memo has yet been presented to Cabinet. The State wants to buy the land that the hospital will be built on, and wants more of a say on the board which will run it.

St Vincent’s Healthcare Group has said it must retain ownership of the site, throwing the Government’s plans into disarray.

In the new National Maternity Hospital (NMH) annual report, deputy chairman of the board Nicholas Kearns said that a “significant milestone” was reached with the finalisation of a business case which was submitted to the HSE last June. An operational plan was also signed-off at the end of the year.

Along with this, “discussions continued with the legal teams from both hospitals and the HSE in relation to various legal documents such as the lease and operating licence, and by the year-end significant progress had been made and there only remained a few clauses for finalisation”.

The Government has said no decision has been made yet to sign off on the relocation.

Senior clinicians in Holles Street also warned that the need for the new hospital has “never been more urgent”.

Mary Brosnan, the director of midwifery and nursing, said that “each day staff go above and beyond their duties to support women in what everyone knows is a very stressful time during pregnancy and childbirth or for women having a gynaecological procedure.

“Infrastructural deficits, especially inadequate inpatient wards, cramped small waiting areas and generally insufficient space within the hospital creates additional challenges for the staff at work in the hospital. The need for the new NMH at Elm Park has never been more urgent.”

The master of Holles Street, Prof Shane Higgins, also said that the “current campus will never be fit for purpose”.

Business case

Chair Stephen Vernon also said that a “number of milestones” were reached in the relocation project.

“The first of these was the completion of the business case. The final version was reviewed and approved by the co-location committee in May and was then approved by the project board in June and submitted to the HSE. This was a significant milestone for the project.”

“Unfortunately the final business case is still going through the HSE and Government review and approval processes but we anticipate that these processes will be completed by mid-2021,” he says.

He also said that he believed the relevant legal documents “are in a form agreed” by NMH, St Vincent’s University Hospital and the Department of Health.

Minutes of last year’s AGM of the hospital have also been circulated in recent days.

A copy, seen by The Irish Times, shows that during a presentation those in attendance were told that the relocation involves a “complex” agreement which was not a normal commercial agreement. “The situation was very bespoke and required some compromises to get finalised.”

The document says that it was “confirmed by SVUH lawyers” that the “church has no role in the new hospital.”

There were also details given about the building plan which is to be moved from a two-phase build to one phase to reduce risk. The building work is due to run from 2022 to completion in 2026, it says.

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