No ‘vested interest’ to veto procedures at new national maternity hospital

All medical procedures permitted in Irish law will be provided for, hospital group says

A computer-generated image of the planned new national maternity hospital.

A computer-generated image of the planned new national maternity hospital.

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All medical procedures permitted in Irish law will be provided for in the new national maternity hospital (NMH), the board of St Vincent’s Healthcare Group (SVHG) has said.

The constitution of the new hospital on the grounds of St Vincent’s, Elm Park, will not allow control by “any vested interest”, SVHG said in a statement.

It will be run by St Vincent’s Holdings CLG, a new, not-for-profit company with charitable status, whisch is being established under the Companies Act and governed by Irish company law, it said.

The hospital group has had control of St Vincent’s University Hospital and St Vincent’s Private Hospital at Elm Park in Dublin, as well as St Michael’s hospital, Dún Laoghaire. All are owned by the Sisters of Charity, who have had no role at the hospital group since 2017 when their representatives resigned from its board.

Earlier this month it was announced that the Vatican had approved a decision by the Sisters “to transfer the entire issued share capital of St Vincent’s Healthcare Group to St Vincent’s Holdings for the nominal sum of €1”. Such permission is required by Catholic Church canon law.

The nuns’ shareholding in SVHG is being transferred to the new St Vincent’s Holdings CLG “and the constitutions of both St Vincent’s Holdings CLG and St Vincent’s Healthcare Group will be publicly available from the Companies Office and the Charities Regulator once this has been completed,” Friday’s statement said.

Public juridic person

In a letter to this newspaper published on Friday, Dr Peter Boylan, life governor and former master at the National Maternity Hospital, wrote: “The obvious question is if the Sisters will follow the custom of religious congregations worldwide in similar circumstances and transfer their property, assets and services into a Vatican-approved entity known as a public juridic person of pontifical right?”

If so “it will be obliged to submit an annual ‘stewardship accountability report’ to the Vatican. It is hard to see how such a report could include the numbers of elective sterilisations, abortions and artificial fertilisation procedures carried out in the hospital in the year, and continue to be approved by the Vatican,” he added.

He asked: “Is it not more likely they have approved a plan for the ownership of a hospital in which such procedures will not be performed?”

In its statement yesterday the SVHG board said that “having taken extensive legal advice”, it was “satisfied that St Vincent’s Holdings CLG is not a public juridic person and its constitution will not allow any vested interest to control the healthcare group”.

A canon lawyer familiar with the correspondence between Rome and the Sisters of Charity agreed with this position. This person, who did not wish to be named, said there was nothing “in the letter of grant” from Rome which could be seen as “a stipulation that church canon law, doctrine or teaching must be observed by St Vincent’s Holdings, or the proposed NMH at Elm Park”.