Wait for Vatican approval for maternity hospital go ahead ‘shameful’

Róisín Shortall criticises ‘reckless’ allocation of €43m for project before title to site secured

Róisín Shortall said it was ‘outrageous’ that the State had to wait for permission from the Catholic hierarchy for the divestment  of the site of the new national maternity hospital on the St Vincent’s hospital campus in Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times.

Róisín Shortall said it was ‘outrageous’ that the State had to wait for permission from the Catholic hierarchy for the divestment of the site of the new national maternity hospital on the St Vincent’s hospital campus in Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times.

 

It is “shameful” that the State is waiting for the approval of the Vatican in order to provide a decent national maternity hospital, the Dáil has been told.

Social Democrats TD Róisín Shortall said it was “outrageous” that the State had to wait for permission from the Catholic hierarchy for the divestment by the Religious Sisters of Charity of the site of the new hospital on the St Vincent’s hospital campus in Dublin, which was first announced more than seven years ago.

Ms Shortall said Minister for Health Simon Harris, the nuns and St Vincent’s had given assurances about the withdrawal, but it had not yet happened.

She said the Minister had announced last December that agreement had been reached and the new hospital would be publicly owned and independent.

Replying for the Government, Minister for Business Heather Humphreys said the secretary general of the Department of Health was to meet the chair of the St Vincent’s Hospital Group this week to discuss issues relating to the hospital.

She said discussion is ongoing “as regards the legal framework to be put in place to protect the State’s investment in the new hospital”.

Legal title

Ms Shortall criticised as “reckless” the Government’s decision to allocate €43 million of public money for phase one of the maternity hospital before it had legal title to the site.

She called for assurances that no further public money would be allocated to the project and put at risk of being lost to the public purse until ownership and ethos are established.

Mr Harris said earlier this month that all outstanding issues had to be resolved before substantial building work began.

He made the comments after the former master of the National Maternity Hospital Peter Boylan said the site was still under religious control and that the nuns needed to produce “credible documentary evidence” that they had got permission to transfer the assets to another “vehicle”.

Ms Humphreys told the Dáil on Wednesday that agreement had been reached for a new company that would have clinical, operational, budgetary and financial independence in the provision of services and this was copper-fastened by the “golden share” to be held by the Minister.

Interfere

She added that “the religious ethos will not interfere with the provision of medical care”.

Ms Shortall said the Minister’s reply was 12 months out of date and the disposal of the site by the nuns could not go ahead without Vatican approval.

Ms Humphreys said she had not had a chance to speak to the Minister for Health but “the intent has not changed”.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin asked “who will own the hospital”.

Ms Humphreys said “there will be no interference in the provision of medical care in the new hospital”.

She added: “I want to be very clear on that intent. Doctors will carry out their duties and a full range of health services will be available without religious, ethnic or other distinction.”