The National Maternity Hospital
Sir, – To say, as your letter writers do (December 4th), that the Sisters of Charity will have “no role” in the new maternity facility is inaccurate. The (Irish) Sisters of Charity own St Vincent’s Healthcare Group. The new maternity hospital, which is to cost an estimated €350 million, is poised to become the congregation’s latest acquisition. The nuns appointed SVHG board members until 2017. The current chairman of the board is one such appointee.
As a wholly owned subsidiary of SVHG, the new maternity hospital will have neither operational nor clinical independence, contrary to claims made. SVHG owns and manages the nuns’ portfolio of hospitals, soon to include the new build. Obstetrics and gynaecology are to be run across the nuns’ four hospitals as a single department. The master of the new maternity hospital will answer to the board of SVHG. The chairman of the maternity hospital board, initially from Holles Street Hospital, will be appointed on a rotating basis by SVHG.
To say that there will be “no religious ethos” lacks credibility.
In May 2017, the Sisters of Charity announced that their ethos would continue to prevail in their hospitals. This was confirmed by SVHG chairman James Menton. These commitments were publicly welcomed by Holles Street Hospital.
The nuns have never permitted procedures prohibited by the Catholic Church. Services such as sterilisation are most unlikely to be carried out in their hospitals. Medical consultants sign contracts binding them to the nuns’ ethos. At least 1,000 of Vincent’s 4,000 staff have attended courses in this Catholic belief system.
A new company is being set up to take ownership of the four hospitals. SVHG accounts show that the directors of this company will be legally obliged to uphold the congregational code. The Sisters of Charity have the option of writing this code into the charter of this company and/or placing it under the supervision of the Catholic hierarchy by incorporating it as an entity in canon law. Whichever they choose, the ball is in their court.
It is patently clear that the new maternity hospital needs to be taken into public ownership if it is to provide a full range of services, including abortion, free of religious influence and control.
Finally, to suggest, as your correspondents do, that the mistreatment of women incarcerated in Magdalene laundries is a separate issue from the ownership of the new maternity hospital is to ignore human rights to redress and reparations. The Sisters of Charity owned several of the more notorious Magalene laundries. Many of the women buried in Hyde Park, for example, were found on exhumation to have limbs encased in plaster. The Sisters of Charity have refused to pay a penny in compensation to the women whose lives they ruined and from whose indentured labour they profited.
To gift this congregation a new publicly funded maternity hospital would be to copperfasten Ireland’s culture of impunity. – Yours, etc,
of Women’s Healthcare,
Clontarf, Dublin 3.